Shannon Stubbs, MP for Lakeland rose in the House of Commons to question the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regarding the planned closure and hold the Liberal Government to account on the proposed closure of the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta.
“Yesterday, Vegreville was blindsided. The Liberals will shut down the Immigration Case Processing Centre. That means the jobs of 280 people will be gone, and 250 spousal jobs will be impacted. Three local businesses are owned by worker families, and a quarter of the students in the town’s schools are kids of workers,” Stubbs said. “No consulting, no consideration of costs or spin off consequences. Will the Minister stop this out of touch, deliberate attack? It will devastate the people in and around Vegreville.”
In response, Minister McCallum claimed “there is a very strong business case to shift this operation from Vegreville to Edmonton…”
But that directly contradicts comments in a meeting in Vegreville on October 27, 2016 where senior officials shocked employees and municipal representatives with the announcement of the decision. Officials were asked directly whether a full cost analysis had been completed. The answer was “no”.
Mike Brecht, the Prairie representative for the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU) was left perplexed after this announcement. “A meeting was held with Paul Armstrong and Robert Orr,” Mike said. “During this meeting, the union asked the question as to what was done to ensure fiscal responsibility. Was there a cost analysis done? Was the option of opening a satellite office in Edmonton considered? The response to both questions was no.”
No employees or administrators in CPC Vegreville were consulted in advance about the closure, nor were municipal representatives or officials advised, or sought for input on the economic impact assessment and spin off consequences on Vegreville, in advance of the announcement.
Town Manager Cliff Craig said they were not warned beforehand, having just heard this news during the announcement: “The decision has already been made and the planning has apparently been for the past six months. As far as a municipality, we had no input. We didn’t even know about this. There was no consultation with the municipality,” said Mr. Craig.
In response to Stubbs in the House of Commons Friday, Minister McCallum also said: “Everybody working in Vegreville will have an opportunity to work at the new location…”, but, in fact, letters of offer and relocation provisions apply only to indeterminate (permanent full time) staff , of which there are approximately 135. The remaining temporary and contract workers, more than half of the current staff, some who have worked in CPC Vegreville for nearly a decade, are not eligible for relocation coverage to Edmonton.
“Obviously, Minister McCallum doesn’t get that Vegreville is 100 kilometers away from Edmonton, and, on average, housing prices in Edmonton are over $100, 000 higher than in Vegreville, so the lack of relocation provisions effectively kills the jobs of ineligible employees who can’t afford to commute. Most of the people who work in CPC Vegreville won’t be covered,” MP Stubbs said.
Employees asked officials about the potential to work remotely with the new location in Edmonton, using ‘Telework’, but were told that was not an option, and would not be considered. Most of the processing work in CPC Vegreville is done through electronic application processes.
In the House of Commons, Stubbs pressed the Minister: “Vegreville cannot afford to take another hit. Farmers and energy families are already struggling and the Liberal’s planned carbon tax will hurt them even more. There are 100 houses on the market in town. This will mean 200 more,” MP Stubbs said. “A single mother of two, who had actually moved from Edmonton to Vegreville to raise her kids in rural life, cannot commute or afford to relocate. Will the Minister reverse this decision, save her job, and all of the others?”
Shannon Stubbs is the Member of Parliament for Lakeland, and Official Opposition Deputy Critic for Natural Resources.