Vegreville was a hot topic inside the House of Commons Friday as its local politician went to bat for the central Alberta community.
It all has to do with the Liberal government’s plan to close the immigration case processing centre and relocate those jobs to Edmonton.
Immigration Minister John McCallum’s ministry made the announcement Thursday and it’s been widely condemned by those in the town.
The facility has been the town’s major employer since it opened in 1994.
Mrs. Shannon Stubbs (Lakeland, CPC): Madam Speaker, 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. There was 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.
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.): Madam Speaker, there is a very strong business case to shift this operation from Vegreville to Edmonton. Everybody working in Vegreville will have an opportunity to work at the new location, and there will be a net addition of jobs in Alberta because of this move. It is the responsibility of the government to spend taxpayer money wisely to improve the efficiency of immigration and reduce processing times, and that is what this move will do.
Mrs. Shannon Stubbs (Lakeland, CPC): Madam Speaker, Vegreville cannot take another hit. Farmers and energy families are already struggling. The Liberals’ planned carbon tax will hurt them even more and hike the cost of everything. There are 100 houses on the market in town. This will mean 200 more. A single mom 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?
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.): Madam Speaker, members of this House will understand well that there are pressures in immigration. There are inefficiencies that have to be improved. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to accept this strong business case that will not only result in a net addition of jobs but will also result in a much greater efficiency that will allow us to provide better customer service and reduce processing times over time. I point out that all of those who are currently working in Vegreville will have an opportunity for alternative employment in Edmonton.
Interjection: Mrs. Shannon Stubbs: We have to talk. You’re killing the town.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): Order, please. I want to remind the member for Lakeland that she has had her time to speak. It is time to hear the minister. I think that we owe that respect to everybody.