The firestorm of controversy surrounding the federal Liberal government’s plan to move an immigration processing centre from Vegreville to Edmonton had more fuel dumped on it Thursday.
Shannon Stubbs, the Conservative MP who represents the riding set to lose the centre, launched an attack on the Trudeau government over the issue in Question Period.
“Mr. Speaker, many Liberals claim closing the Vegreville immigration office is to ‘manage middle class taxpayers’ dollars responsibly’ and to ‘spend tax dollars wisely’ and to ‘save money,'” she said in the opening of a heated five-minute discussion on the matter.
“But yesterday, Global News exposed all that was a massive Liberal deception. The facts reveal this cold-hearted decision will actually cost taxpayers millions. The minister can’t fix his predecessor’s mistake. Will he reverse it now?”
On Wednesday, Global News published a story referencing documents that show the federal government will take on millions of dollars in higher renovation and leasing costs to move an immigration case processing centre from the central Alberta town to the provincial capital.
Watch below: On May 17, 2017, David Akin filed this report about what’s behind the move, and what the consequences areof the Alberta community of Vegreville getting set to lose hundreds of jobs as the federal government shuts down an immigration processing centre.
The documents contradict former Immigration Minister John McCallum’s assertion in November that the relocation would save money.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale fielded Stubbs’ questions Thursday but did comment on the internal cost analysis obtained by Global News.
“Mr. Speaker, sadly about 20 per cent of the available positions at the current location are vacant,” he said. “The move will address the staffing challenge and allow for an expansion of immigration operations and create additional jobs for Alberta. In fact, the new centre will accommodate 312 employees and will effectively double the capacity of the existing system.
“We recognize the relocation has an impact on staff and family and we will continue to make every effort to minimize those impacts.”
Stubbs called Goodale’s response “nonsense” and said even earlier this month, a senior Liberal said the move was being done solely in the interest of saving money.
“Canadians now know the truth and rural Liberal MPs, the NDP and federal public service workers everywhere should be outraged because if this can be done to Vegreville, this can be done everywhere,” she said. “Let’s be clear about what is happening.
“The minister is spending millions of tax dollars to shut this office down in a small town represented by a Conservative and moving jobs to a vulnerable Liberal riding.”
At one point, there was so much yelling from MPs during the exchange between Stubbs and Goodale that the Speaker interrupted to maintain order.
The community of Vegreville, with a population of about 5,000, is located about 100 kilometres east of Edmonton. It says it stands to lose more than seven per cent of its population if the facility is moved.
-with files from David Akin.