Roland Butler, MHA for Port de Grave District and
Opposition Human Resources Labour and Employment Critic, wants Minister Joan
Burke to provide confirmation that there will be no further closure of HRLE
offices around the province.
"When I raised this
matter last week, the Ministerís Communications Director called my office in
an attempt to kill any story related to this issue," said Butler. "The fact
that I am hearing from senior civil servants within the Department that some
offices are slated for closure and the Minister refuses to go on the record
herself to deny the claims leads me to believe there is more to the issue
than government is telling the public. The Minister must personally confirm
or deny these claims."
The Liberal MHA says the cuts would be wrong because
they would mean further hardship for people who have to look to the
Department for assistance and also because of the impact it would have on
employees and the economy of rural areas.
Last May, despite denying claims made by the
Opposition, the Conservative government announced the closure of 20 HRLE
offices around the province which provide services to some of the poorest
people in this province. "The way in which the cuts happened last year and
the lack of consultation with workers prior to the announcement has left a
mood of mistrust with these public sector employees.
"I know for a fact that some of the workers who moved
to the Carbonear office from Bay Roberts last year are concerned about their
future. There has been speculation that the Carbonear office may close or be
downgraded and positions transferred to St. Johnís. I want the Minister to
be up front with these people so they can have some stability in their
The Liberal MHA also reiterated his point that these
cuts to offices in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are sending the wrong
messages about the viability of rural areas. "It does not inspire confidence
in the local economy when the government is packing up and leaving town.
Rather than centralizing offices, government should be looking at ways to
keep jobs in rural areas."