OTTAWA—Conservative Official Opposition Leader, Rona Ambrose, questioned the Liberals’ deliberate attack on rural Canadians during Question Period today.
“Older, smaller, and poorer are not my words. They are the words of the mayor of Vegreville about the fate that awaits the town if the Liberals close the immigration centre. He warns of a crash in home values and an exodus of students and young people. It will be a devastating blow to the people and the future of this small community,” said Ambrose. “The mayor said ‘This is exactly the opposite of what the government promised to do for rural Canada in the last election.’ Why is the Prime Minister attacking rural Canada?”
Ambrose’s question is in response to an economic impact assessment the Town of Vegreville commissioned as part of their campaign to stop the closure of the Immigration Case Processing Centre. The Town released its findings at a town hall that was attended by almost 300 people.
In response to Ms. Ambrose’s question, Minister Hussen, Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship, cited job creation as reasoning for the move.
“We continue to engage the community. In the new location, not only will we be able to expand our immigration services, we will be able to create more jobs for Alberta,” said Minister Hussen.
Shannon Stubbs, MP for Lakeland, has been advocating to reverse this closure since it was announced on October 27th. In response to an Order Paper Question Ms. Stubbs received earlier this month, the Minister’s department suggested the new location in Edmonton will have the capacity to hold 312 employees. This would mean a maximum addition of 32 positions, which could easily remain unfilled. Department officials confirmed months ago to union representatives that no consultation, no cost study, and no economic impact assessment were undertaken by the federal government before the announcement of this edict.
“The capacity at the office in Edmonton will be 312 vs 280 in Vegreville. Town officials have offered spaces in Vegreville, along with plans to expand the existing centre. The Minister is not doubling the work force–he is adding 32 desks to a space that also requires millions of dollars in upgrades. On top of that, nothing is stopping the Department from operating in Edmonton; the Vegreville office does not have to be closed in order to hire or offer a different or additional scope of work or services in Edmonton,” said Stubbs.
Ms. Ambrose continued to press the Minister following his response:
“I would invite the Minister to come to Vegreville so that he can get a sense of what we are talking about. This is not just an impact on these employees. This is an impact on the entire town of Vegreville. It will crash home values, there will be an exodus of students and young people, it will be a devastating blow to the people and the future of this small rural community. I ask him, will he come and visit, face the people of Vegreville, face the Mayor, and explain to him why he is attacking rural Canadians?” questioned Ambrose.
The report detailed the economic, employment and social impacts this edict will have on the community. The closure would amount to the removal of 9% of Vegreville’s workforce, the loss of $15.9 million of GDP. It would cause a sharp drop in market values of approximately 25-30%, which is on top of the 17% drop in market values since 2014 to 2016. Further to this, the unemployment rate could double from 8% to nearly 16%. Families will have to sacrifice a rural way of life in order to follow their job to Edmonton.
“This closure is a direct attack on rural Canadians, who have thrived in their communities for generations. The jobs in CPC Vegreville are the exact kind of federal public service jobs that are sustainable in rural communities, since it is not a front line, customer service office. Removing jobs from Vegreville unnecessarily to a city show how the Liberals have turned their backs on rural communities, which have and continue to contribute to all of Canada. Instead of forcing families to leave their homes, the Liberals should be enabling small, hardworking and close knit communities like Vegreville to continue to succeed,” said Stubbs.