A recently retired Natural Resource officer says it will cost the provincial government more tax dollars to close the Manitoba Natural Resource Conservation Office in Grandview and amalgamate it with offices in Dauphin and Roblin than they will save.
Doug Maxwell, who worked as a natural resource officer for 35 years across the province before retiring in 2010, said the province stands to save about $6,500 — the overhead costs —by closing the office, but it will cost them more in the form of fuel and loss of services.
“It’s going to cost them more money,” Maxwell said. “If they are looking at doing half the amount of service on the ground in the area, then it’s going to cost the government more in travel.”
Currently, four officers and one administrator work out of the Grandview District Office. If those officers are forced to drive each day from Roblin or Dauphin to enforce conservation regulations in Grandview, the government will pay more in mileage than the approximate $6,500 it costs to keep the lights on in the office in Grandview, according to Maxwell.
“They are taking away the most important office as far as enforcement goes when it comes to moose and the Duck Mountains,” Maxwell said, adding that the office has made strides in helping the moose population rebound in the provincial park.
“The province insinuates that the service to the public is not going to suffer, which is an incredible statement because now there won’t be an office in Grandview,” he said. “The little bit they are going to save on taxes and heat doesn’t compare to what it is going to cost to drive from Grandview to Roblin.”
And it’s not that Maxwell fundamentally opposes all cuts or amalgamations within the department.
He understands the predicament the provincial government is in and is sympathetic to the closure of some offices, but he can’t understand how the Grandview office could not be identified as an important asset.
“It does make sense to close some offices,” Maxwell said. “It makes sense to close Leaf Rapids. It makes sense to close Mafeking. It doesn’t make sense to close Grandview.”
The Mafeking office will be merged in Swan River, while the Leaf Rapids office will be downsized due to a retirement and some services will be merged in Thompson.
He also said it’s important to have officers in the community to protect against poachers in the area.
“We have an officer in town right now who lives four miles from the bottom end of the Duck Mountain Provincial Forrest and that’s where the duck and moose live and it’s handy to have him there for poaching tip calls,” Maxwell said. “Move him or his vehicle to Roblin and you might as well have him in Steinbach.”
And the amalgamation in Grandview won’t just hurt frontline services near Riding Mountain National Park and the Duck Mountains, Maxwell said — it will hurt the community.
“It’s not only the impact on resources, it’s the impact on the town,” Maxwell said.
While Grandview will retain some officers, who are committed to the community, in the short-term, Maxwell said that over time the next wave of officers will most likely choose to live in Dauphin or Roblin, hurting services, the school and businesses.
“You take four or five families out of the community, their children out of the schools and it has a big impact,” Maxwell said. “They’ll be obligated to live in Roblin or Dauphin, and that means our community is going to suffer. This will hurt the community and businesses for a long time into the future.”
David Minshull, past-president with Grandview Game and Fish, can’t understand the government’s logic, considering the area is a identified as a bovine tuberculosis hot bed.
“My concern is regarding TB, because we’re considered a TB hot zone,” Minshull said. “The numbers don’t add up. I see them making another million dollar mistake.”
Minshull said when he first moved to the area there was a federal conservation office in Grandview and soon after it closed the bovine tuberculosis became a big problem, costing farmers and the cattle industry millions of dollars.
“We never see the federal wardens in town since they closed that office,” Minshull said. “And if they close the provincial office there is really no one stopping anyone from doing what ever they want in this area.”
He said the provincial officers do an excellent job ensuring there isn’t any free-range grazing on bales, one of the ways saliva from elk infected with the disease can spread it to cattle in the area.
“The provincial guys have shut that down,” Minshull said. “If you have a bale left out, they are there quickly to make sure you get it off the field. They’re always watching, but now, if they’re gone, they’re gone for good.”
The Grandview office is on of several offices in rural Manitoba that will be merged.
Grandview, Mafeking, Leaf Rapids, Deloraine and the agriculture offices in Fisher Branch and Starbuck will be affected.
The province is amalgamating the offices in a bid to cut costs.
“It’s clear that economic uncertainty has become an ongoing reality for economies everywhere. That’s why we’re continuing to look for responsible ways to reduce administrative costs while protecting the services Manitoba families count on most,” said Finance Minister Stan Struthers in a provincial release recently. “These changes mean we can reduce expenditures and also restructure, streamline and modernize the services our government provides. We are saving money without layoffs or by moving positions to Winnipeg.”
The government is expected to save over $140,000 in rural Manitoba, while the conservation library services merging with the Manitoba Legislative Library in Winnipeg will save an additional $210,000.