Stop the closure of the Vegreville Case Processing Centre

Mayor – Guest Columns

When Rural Communities Get Left Behind

Myron Hayduk is the Mayor of Vegreville.  The community has launched a campaign called #respectvegreville which asks the federal government reconsider moving the Case Processing Centre to Edmonton.

February 21, 2017

A small town is easy to miss.

Unless we are desperate for gas or need to use the bathroom, most of us just keep driving down the highway speeding towards the next major urban centre.

The decision will be quick.

It won’t involve much debate or thought because it will be presumed that bigger is better; that there will be more options; that nobody in rural Alberta will really miss us or need our business to survive.

Last October, the Federal government sped past Vegreville with eyes only for the capital city 102 kilometers away.

The decision was quick and it involved no discussion or consultation with the community. The government announced that the Vegreville Case Processing Centre (CPC) and its 236 employees, would be relocated to Edmonton by the end of 2018.

Despite having a successful and efficient operation in the community for the past 23 years, the Federal government chose to move these jobs into the City – according to them – because there were more options in Edmonton, that bigger is better. Besides, rural Alberta won’t really miss these jobs or need the CPC in order to survive.

For Vegreville residents the decision to close the CPC isn’t about some criteria that makes work easier for departmental managers, it’s about our community’s very survival.

All 5,711 residents understand closing the CPC will have a lasting impact for generations to come.  Like the world-famous Vegreville egg, the CPC has been a feature in the community for decades. Established in 1994, the facility is the town’s largest and most stable employer. In fact, last year $15.9 million dollars flowed into the community from the facility via operational services, rental income, plus direct and induced salaries.

While the CPC is a significant financial contributor to the community, it also serves as the town’s proverbial fountain of youth. In a recent socio-economic impact report commissioned by the Town, the local population is heavily skewed to residents over 65. The CPC has continued to keep young families in the community with the lure of quality employment and a tranquil small town lifestyle.

But we know that if the CPC moves to Edmonton, it won’t just be the employees and their wallets that leave. Vegreville could potentially say goodbye to 420 people in total – about 7.3% of our population.

To a big city, a couple hundred people may seem like a drop in the bucket. But consider this, if Edmonton were to lose the same percentage of its population, there would be roughly 112,000 people hitting the road.

The resulting real-estate ripple would hit everyone in Vegreville. It’s anticipated that the closure of the CPC will trigger a 30% reduction in home prices on top of the 17% plummet the town has already endured due to Alberta’s prolonged economic downturn.

If the CPC goes, it’s anticipated that Vegreville unemployment rates will also double to 16% of the community will be out of work and no local prospects in sight.

If Vegreville’s unemployment rate climbs into double digits, and becomes one of the most economically challenged communities in Alberta, will anyone stop to notice? It is hard to say. But what will surely happen is our town will continue to get smaller, older and poorer.

The frustrating part is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Now is the time to ensure that Vegreville doesn’t fade into the rear-view mirror.  Now is the time for the federal government to reconsider its decision and ensure the sustainability of rural Alberta by keeping the CPC firmly rooted in the community where it has been for more than two decades.

The Federal Government says that rural communities matter.  We shall see if they are prepared to slow down, stop in our community and appreciate what Vegreville has to offer.  Or perhaps they will just speed by and carry on down the road.


Together, We Will Fight to Keep Our Case Processing Centre

Submitted by Mayor of Vegreville Myron Hayduk.

December 2, 2016

The shock of the Federal government’s announcement to close the Case Processing Centre is evident everywhere I go. This facility has been a cornerstone of our community for more than 20 years.  It is our single largest employer in town and the staff at the centre are friends, family, neighbours, or customers.

The unilateral decision to take away 8% of our workforce was made at a time when our community and province is especially vulnerable. Like the rest of Alberta, Vegreville has been weathering the storm of volatile markets and a sluggish economy. This recent Federal Government decision is like pouring salt in a wound.

Without even a hint of discussion, local residents have been informed that bureaucratic convenience trumps community livelihood. It would seem that our efforts to build community resilience and spirit have gone unnoticed and that the time and energy local residents have invested into making Vegreville an attractive choice has been wasted.

The decision to uproot established workers and families from a community that they chose to call home seems both unfair and unwise. It is also at odds with the federal government’s campaign promises to ‘strengthen our communities by investing in the things that make them good places to live’.

While 228 jobs may seem insignificant to someone balancing the books in Ottawa, this loss is devastating for Vegreville. These workers and their families are essential to the fabric of our community. They shop at local businesses, support our charities, and their children comprise a sizeable portion of our student population.

Equally frustrating is the lack of respect for the people of Vegreville. Apparently, this move has been in the works for the past six months yet neither the staff at the centre or the municipality was given an opportunity to feed into the process.

Believe it or not, the big city doesn’t appeal to everyone. People choose to live in smaller towns for a variety of reasons and it is unfair to take that choice away. It is also unacceptable to make major decisions without the benefit of local stakeholder input.

My hope is that this was an extremely unfortunate oversight and not an attempt to avoid what would surely be a difficult and contentious conversation.

Since we weren’t given the chance to voice our concerns prior to the decision being made, my promise is to make sure that our position on this matter is heard loud and clear now.

Together, we will fight to keep our Case Processing Centre. Not only do we care about the jobs this service provides, we care about our friends, our neighbours and our family. We will hold on tightly to these people because we know how important they are to our community and we value their choice.

The Town of Vegreville will be holding the Federal Government accountable to its promise to be more open and transparent, and to invest in rural communities. As Mayor, I have done several national and provincial media interviews. The concerns have been echoed by MP Shannon Stubbs and the Hon. Rona Ambrose, Leader of the Opposition who have also asked some hard questions in House of Commons.

Letters have been written to Prime Minister Trudeau; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum; as well as Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote.  As well, a   Special Resolution was tabled at the recent AAMD&C Convention and overwhelming passed with 92.11% support by the delegates.

I also had a meeting with Jessica Littlewood, MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, where we requested letters of support from Premier Rachel Notley the Minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larivee.

But we need your help. Our Council is asking the residents of Vegreville to also show their support by writing letters and calling the federal government to express their frustration about this decision and demanding the government reconsider the closure of the CPC.

 

Call

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen @ 613.954.1064

Write a letter

or send an e-mail to Minister Hussen Ahmed.Hussen@parl.gc.ca

#RESPECTVEGREVILLE

#RURALCANADAMATTERS