Shannon Stubbs, MP for Lakeland, asked the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada again about the October 27, 2016 announcement of the deliberate removal of jobs from rural Alberta and the planned closure of the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville.
“Mr. Speaker, the Minister’s excuses to close the Vegreville Case Processing Centre and move it to a Liberal city riding are nonsense. He claimed a strong business case, cited efficiencies and said the union agrees, but Prairie PSAC reps say ‘this has nothing to do with workload or the capacity of these employees to deliver service. The reasons given by department heads were trivial.’ They confirm senior officials said that no cost analysis was done. They call for a reversal of this edict. How can Vegreville believe anything the Minister says?”
In response, Minister McCallum said: “…there is a strong case for this. We have a responsibility to spend taxpayer’s money wisely, to improve the efficiency of the Immigration Department and reduce processing time.”
Mike Brecht, Prairie representative for the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU), a branch of PSAC, said “this [edict] has nothing to do with workload or the capacity of these employees to deliver the service.” People who were present at the October 27th meeting said, in fact, that the senior officials praised the performance of the employees and the Vegreville Case Processing Centre and the important role it plays in the region, and in Canada overall.
Earlier this week, Stubbs pointed out to the Minister again that there was zero consultation with any local employee or administrator of CPC Vegreville, or with any town representatives, residents or stakeholders. In fact, senior department officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship already confirmed a cost analysis was not completed prior to this announcement.
In response to Stubbs in the House of Commons on Monday, Minister McCallum repeated his statement last week that “…all employees will retain jobs in Edmonton, should they wish.” But, relocation provisions only apply to permanent full time staff. More than half of the current CPC Vegreville employees won’t be covered to move.
“How can the Minister claim a strong business case – or any business case at all? – when no cost analysis was completed? Stubbs said. “How can he claim fiscal responsibility when no fiscal or comparative diligence was done? Never mind that lease, office, and residential costs are less in Vegreville.”
“With higher rent, and house prices being over $100,000 more in Edmonton than in Vegreville, a 200km per day commute and the rejection of being able to work remotely via telework, many employees cannot afford the only option being presented to them. This edict is killing jobs in rural Alberta at the very worst time,” MP Stubbs said.
The Minister also claimed: “I can mention the union was on side with this…” But, this is not true. Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies for PSAC, is calling on the Liberals to reverse the edict. “We urge the Federal government to reverse their decision for the sake of the employees and for the community of Vegreville,” said Hladun. “For a government that campaigned to ‘strengthen our communities by investing in the things that make them good places to live’, this announcement is yet another failure to meet their election promises at the expense of this community.”
Monday, Stubbs pressed the Minister: “The Liberals should stop saying they’re not causing job losses. This edict is deliberately killing jobs in Vegreville. I hope the Minister will join me in town, speak directly with the people who will be hurt the most, look them in their eyes and tell them why he approves this action. The Minister should save these rural Alberta jobs. Will he stop this political removal of jobs from Vegreville to a Liberal held city riding?”
Minister McCallum repeated his unfounded claims: “From the point of view of the business case, there is a strong case for moving to Edmonton,” McCallum said. “…we will have a more efficient immigration system which will reduce processing time and serve Canadians better.”
The CPC Vegreville is a major processing centre, and hub, for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada in western Canada. Employees are cross trained to back up other case processing centres across the country at any time, and when backlogged inventory is sent back to Vegreville for completion.
Employees and residents who were at the October 27, 2016 challenge the Minister’s implications about efficiencies in his responses. They confirm that senior officials spoke very highly of the consistent and exceptional performance of CPC Vegreville, and its important role as a major factor in the Department’s work, before blindsiding them with the edict about the closure.
PSAC News Release
Friday, October 28, 2016
WINNIPEG – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada employees at the Case Processing Centre were shocked to learn on Thurs. October 27th that the Federal government plans to close their processing centre in Vegreville and relocate it to Edmonton by the end of 2018.
Approximately 280 employees work in the centre processing temporary and permanent residency applications, work permits and student permits. Department managers cited recruitment of bilingual staff, training opportunities and transit issues as reasons for the decision to relocate to Edmonton. The employees represent approximately 5% of the population of Vegreville, a community approximately 100 km outside of Edmonton.
“This has nothing to do with workload or the capacity of these employees to deliver the service,” said Mike Brecht, Regional Representative, Prairies for the Canada Employment & Immigration Union (CEIU), a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Union that represents the workers at the Processing Centre. “The reasons given by department heads were trivial when compared to the impact on the community of Vegreville including our members and their families.”
“We urge the Federal government to reverse their decision for the sake of the employees and for the community of Vegreville” said Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President, Prairies for PSAC. “For a government that campaigned to ‘strengthen our communities by investing in the things that make them good places to live’, this announcement is yet another failure to meet their election promises at the expense of this community.”