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CFIA staffing still varies, but its no longer an issue



Back in the day, that being before 2015, Canadian politics made much of minor fluxations in numbers of staff assigned to food safety.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was often defending its staffing levels when Conservative Ron Harper ran the government from the capital in Ottawa. Usually, charges that inspection personnel was being cutback originated with leaders of unions representing government workers.

Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since 2015, however, the Liberal Party government of Canada is not getting criticisms about CFIA staffing levels.

Indeed, under Trudeau, CFIA’s overall staffing levels appear to have declined from the peak levels employed during the era of the Conservative Harper. But that is not getting much if any, attention in Canada because it’s not that important.

At the request of Food Safety News, CFIA provided figures before and after 2015 for making comparisons. The first section is for total full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) for CFIA by year:

2011/12 6,623

2012/13 6,446

2013/14 6,378

2016/17 6,101

2017/18 6,271

CFIA’S next data set separates out “field related” inspection personal. Before 2015, this was the number often in dispute.

2011/12 3238

2012/13 3216

2013/14 3296

2016/17 3447

2017/18 3,480

It means that going into 2019, CFIA was operating with 352 fewer agency-wide full-time equivalents of employees than it did under the peak experienced under Harper. But, the Trudeau government had 182 more employees actually on the line.

More specifically, the 3,480 FTEs for 2017/18 include 2,860 for field inspection work and 620 for so-called professional capacity in laboratories. Included are front-line inspectors, veterinarians, and scientists in federally registered establishments, import service centers, field offices or laboratories.

Included in this grouping are any FTEs assigned to:

inspecting slaughterhouses,
analyzing samples in laboratories,
providing virology and toxicology expertise,
inspecting ship holds for insects,
testing animals in the field for diseases,
leading investigations,
examining farm crops,
authorizing nurseries and greenhouses for export
and assessing quality assurance and quality management.
Also, CFIA went into 2019 with 573 FTEs working as chemists, biologists, scientific researchers, risk assessors, and operational specialists.

And finally, CFIA’s management and support activities accounted for 2,218 FTE’s. The mostly headquarters personnel work as policy advisors, program managers, executives, statisticians, legal counselors, human resources advisors, financial management professionals, communications specialists, real property, material and acquisition services, information technology and information management specialists.

CFIA uses FTE as a standard financial measure used to capture the total paid hours of an organization’s annual workforce. One full FTE is equal to 37.5 hours of work per week over 12 months for any given position — whether its the total work of one full-time employee, or the combined work of part-time employees.