Newfoundland shifts Lands Branch to new department

The government branch overseeing Crown land in Newfoundland and Labrador will join the provincial ministry handling the agrifoods file, as the province moves to cut public sector costs.

Premier Dwight Ball on Wednesday announced what he billed as the “Flatter, Leaner Management Structure” for the provincial government, a reorganization which will see 287 management positions — including 90 already-vacant spots — eliminated across all departments.

In the restructuring, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods will rebrand as the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, and will include the Lands Branch from the former municipal affairs department.

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The Lands Branch is responsible for Crown lands administration as well as land management, land use planning and surveys and mapping.

The province also said Wednesday it will “maximize the benefits of realigning the Lands Branch” by relocating the branch’s offices to Corner Brook.

Moving the Lands Branch, the government said, will “position it near the majority of agriculture and forestry activity within the province.”

The new ministry — which remains the portfolio for former Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Minister Steve Crocker — also takes up responsibility for the former environment department’s Wildlife Division and the justice department’s Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Division.

The Fisheries and Land Resources department, the province said, “unites all aspects of support provided to renewable resource industries, and better positions the provincial government to support economic development and growth in these areas.”

The new department also gets a new deputy minister, as Lori Anne Companion was named Wednesday to replace David Lewis as the department’s top bureaucrat.

Companion, the deputy minister for the transportation and works department since January 2015, has been with the provincial public service since 1986, also serving stints as deputy minister for advanced education and skills and deputy minister for child, youth and family services.

Across all departments, the province’s restructuring is expected to save about $20 million to $25 million in salaries and benefits per year beyond 2016-17, the government said.

The management-level restructuring follows a previous 20 per cent cut in senior executive positions at the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister levels, and a 31 per cent cut last year in communications positions. — AGCanada.com Network

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