With Christmas just days away, Shannon Stubbs, Conservative MP for Lakeland, Alberta is stepping up efforts to force the Trudeau Liberals to justify their decision to close the immigration case processing centre in Vegreville, forcing 280 workers to move, or travel 100 kilometres west to Edmonton.
Stubbs met Sunday with affected workers, Vegreville’s mayor, the local MLA, and area residents, to keep the pressure on the government for answers.
The community forum in Vegreville follows two solid months of pressure from Stubbs in Ottawa, where she challenged Immigration Minister John McCallum 15 times in Question Period and twice in adjournment proceedings, to release his department’s business case for the controversial closure.
The Liberal government has yet to release the business case in question.
“It will devastate the people in and around Vegreville,” Stubbs told the House of Commons during question period.
“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 concluded.
The MP for Lakeland, Alberta also tackled McCallum, his deputy minister, and immigration officials at the Citizenship and Immigration Committee.
“You’ve said there is a good business case,” Stubbs told McCallum and his officials. “But your own department admitted there was no cost analysis or economic impact assessment done about the closure, so will you release the business case?”
McCallum responded, “They were having trouble hiring people. There were major vacancies that they could not fill. It was felt there would a much stronger performance in Edmonton and hence the decision was made.”
Stubbs pushed back on McCallum and his officials, reading emotional letters from people affected by the closure.
One current employee in Vegreville discussed commuting to Edmonton, with additional vehicle costs, including fuel, maintenance, insurance. “The end result is nearly $19,000 per year in added costs just for my wife and I to be able to keep our current positions.”
“I thought the Liberal government was trying to make life better for people but it’s becoming increasingly clear that rural Alberta is not within the realm of communities you are interested in helping,” another employee wrote.
Following the exchange in the immigration committee, Stubbs challenged the Prime Minister in Question Period to intervene and stop the relocation.
Stubbs explained how important 280 jobs are in a town the city of Vegreville:
“It’s like removing 290,000 jobs from Toronto, 187,000 from Montréal, 113,000 from Vancouver, 60,000 from Ottawa, and 55,000 from Edmonton.”
“This unnecessary and unfounded edict will hurt families, businesses, and communities in the region. When will the Prime Minister do the right thing and stop this cold-hearted, mean-spirited attack?”
Trudeau told Stubbs that a parliamentary secretary had already answered her question, before adding, “We approved a pipeline that is going to make a difference in the lives of millions of Albertans.”
That answer wasn’t good enough for Rona Ambrose. The Leader of the Opposition went on the attack, defending Stubbs.
“There is the Liberal arrogance that Albertans have come to expect from the Prime Minister,” said Ambrose.
“(Stubbs) asked a very good question about jobs. If it was 290,000 jobs in Toronto, the Prime Minister would have been paying attention and he would have answered the question. She deserves respect. Albertans deserve respect.”
“Why does the Prime Minister not get up, do the right thing, and give the people of Vegreville their jobs back?” the Leader of the Official Opposition asked.
Stubbs continues to press the government to release the missing business case for the controversial move. “The Mayor and council have offered the use of several vacant locations in Vegreville,” she says. “Continuing the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville doesn’t at all prevent the department from hiring in Edmonton if they determine a need.”
The people of Vegreville deserve better.