The town of Vegreville would suffer a permanent drop in population, lower property values and higher unemployment as a result of the closure of the town’s Case Processing Centre, according to a report commissioned by the town.
The socio-economic report released Tuesday suggests the central Alberta town east of Edmonton could lose up to 420 people, or 7.3 per cent of the population, when the CPC is shut down next year.
Late last year, the federal government announced it was relocating the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Case Processing Centre from Vegreville to Edmonton. The department is set to be relocated by the end of 2018.
According to the town’s report, closing the office would lead to a 30 per cent decrease in home prices in a worst case scenario. That’s on top of the 17 per cent drop in market values seen from 2014 to 2016.
The closure would also mean moving approximately nine per cent of the town’s labour force (236 positions) to Edmonton, leading to a loss of approximately $15.9 million of GDP.
The town believes about 130 students, the equivalent of four classes, would be lost from local schools.
“We have always known that the impact to our community from the federal government’s closure of the Vegreville CPC would be devastating,” Mayor Myron Hayduk said. “As this socio-economic impact report demonstrates, the consequences to our community are devastating and long term.
“The government’s decision to close the CPC means Vegreville will be older, smaller and poorer. This is exactly the opposite of what the government promised to do for rural Canada in the last election.”
The release of the report comes one day after the union representing workers at Vegreville’s CPC met with Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen.
Marianne Hladun, executive vice president of the Prairies Regional branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said she spent about half an hour explaining how devastating the closure would be to the community. She also invited Hussen to Vegreville to meet with staff and community members.
“We will continue our dialogue to come up with a solution that will meet the government’s goals in a way that will also benefit the workers and the community,” Hladun said. “We’re fully prepared to work with the minister and to facilitate discussion with staff and the community at large. The bottom line is that the department doesn’t need to close the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville in order to expand operations in Edmonton.”
Hayduk said the town is once again asking the feds to reconsider its decision to close the office. Hladun said the union will continue its online campaign #RespectVegreville, which is also calling on the minister to reconsider the closure.
When the closure was announced in October, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the federal government would make every effort to minimize the impact on existing staff, adding that “all current IRCC indeterminate employees will have the opportunity to continue their employment in their current positions once the office is relocated to Edmonton.”
“Term employees at the time of the move will be offered employment at the new office,” Sonia Lesage said. “This decision was made in an effort to respond to increased demand in various lines of business, and to expand operations.”
The CPC opened in Vegreville in 1994 and has been one of the town’s largest employers for over 20 years.
A town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night in Vegreville to update the community on the meeting between the union and the federal minister.
Vegreville is located approximately 100 kilometres east of Edmonton.