WHEREAS the Federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has announced a decision to close the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Vegreville and moving 228 employee positions to Edmonton in December of 2018;
WHEREAS this decision will impact 8% of the Town of Vegreville’s workforce and have a devastating effect at a time when Alberta’s economy is already struggling; and
WHEREAS the Town/County Councils are expressing very deep concern that our community is losing one of our largest employers without any prior consultations with the public or municipality on this closure; and
WHEREAS the steady employment and income that is created by this office has introduced new people to the area, increased real estate values, increased the municipality’s tax base, which allows the Town to offer more programming, and is a solid foundation for attracting new business to the community; and
WHEREAS this decision is at odds with the Federal government’s campaign commitment to ‘strengthen our communities by investing in the things that make them good places to live’;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship reconsider their decision to close the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Vegreville.
Vegreville and the County of Minburn have been shocked to learn of the impending closure of the Federal Case Processing Center in the Town of Vegreville scheduled for the end of 2018, which employs some 280 people, residents of both the Town and County. These employees have, in some cases, worked for decades at the center, which is intended to be relocated in Edmonton.
Some employees are being offered a transition to the city if they accept an offer to relocate within a short time frame. Others are not so lucky. The lost jobs will represent nearly 10 per cent of the total work force in the community. At a time when the economy is already struggling, this is a major blow to the region.
The Vegreville Case Processing Center is operated within a privately owned facility, and the lease agreement is set to expire in February of 2019. The decision to relocate has been in the works or at least the last six months, with no public consultation with the municipality.
The potential loss of jobs affects more than the Federal bottom line; families of the estimated 228 employees and roughly 300 of their children who attend school in the community are affected.
Service clubs such a Little Warriors, the Vegreville Breakfast Club, Vegreville Food Bank and Vegreville KidSport, and the Vegreville Association for Living in Dignity, that receive thousands of dollars in charity support from activities carried out by employees of the Case Processing Center will have shortfalls in funding.
The Town has engaged Torque Communications for professional advocacy in Ottawa on the issue, and solicited letters of support from neighbouring municipalities that will feel the impact of the Center’s closure.
Following meaningful conversations with the Minister of Immigration’s office, Vegreville Mayor Myron Hayduk has been invited to Ottawa to attend a meeting with the Honourable John McCallum and staff to discuss the matter.
The local business community, churches, community groups, schools, and families of hundreds stand to feel negative impacts should the closure of the center take place.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
In response to this resolution, the AAMDC received a letter from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship dated February 22, 2017, which indicated the following:
Thank you for your correspondence of November 25, 2016, addressed to my predecessor, the Honourable John McCallum, concerning the relocation of the workload from the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Vegreville to Edmonton.
Canadians expect their Government to make responsible decisions on spending that will address current challenges, account for future situations, and ensure tax dollars are spent on quality services to meet expectations of clients and provide program excellence. The relocation will also save money, as the new office space will be located within the Government of Canada’s existing property inventory.
The building lease for the CPC expires in February 2019. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) submitted its business requirements to Public Services and Procurement Canada in November 2015 so that work could begin on securing leasing options. These business requirements dictate the geographical boundaries for consideration of the lease renewal strategy. Vegreville will not meet these requirements. Furthermore, there have been ongoing tenant service issues at the current CPC location including hundreds of service calls related to plumbing and sanitary issues (67 service calls since August 2013) and frequent breakdowns of the heating and cooling systems (131 service calls since August 2013) in the building.
In an effort to respond to increased demand in various lines of business, IRCC is relocating its CPC from Vegreville to Edmonton by December 2018.
IRCC intends to expand its operations in Alberta in the coming years. In negotiating a new lease, the Department has made the difficult decision to move its operations to Edmonton, the closest major city, where the proximity to universities, the availability of public transit and housing options, and career growth opportunities within the federal government will make it easier to recruit and retain both qualified and bilingual employees and to meet our growing needs. Currently, approximately 20% of the CPC staff commute from Edmonton to Vegreville.
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.
We recognize this relocation will have an impact on staff and are making every effort to minimize those impacts. The Department has held multiple workshops to explain the relocation process and will continue to do so. IRCC management will continue to work closely with staff throughout this transition period.
I have noted your concerns about the effect that the relocation of the CPC will have on the town residents. Approximately 42% of the current staff in Vegreville will reach retirement age in the next five years. I note that, recruiting and retaining bilingual staff is crucial to maintaining functions and service standards at the CPC in the coming years. Over the past number of years, IRCC has used a variety of recruitment strategies at the CPC in Vegreville including:
To date, recruitment efforts to replace departing staff have been unsuccessful. From October 2015 to September 2016, 17% of staff at the CPC in Vegreville have left the workforce. This has posed considerable challenges to IRCC’s capacity to maintain and grow its operations.
While I realize that this announcement has come as a disappointment to many people, I hope that the explanation provided will be of assistance.
The Government of Canada response provides the rationale under which Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada made the decision to relocate their case processing centre from Vegreville to Edmonton. Unfortunately, the letter does not indicate whether the Government of Canada conducted a local impact analysis on Vegreville and the surrounding rural areas, or whether potential community impacts were considered as a component of their decision-making process. Most importantly, the response does not indicate a willingness to reconsider the final relocation decision.
In 2017, a report commissioned by the Town of Vegreville indicated that as many as 420 people could relocate from Vegreville as a result of the case processing centre closure. In addition to the Town of Vegreville report, the closure decision has drawn concern from oppositions MPs, as well as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
The Vegreville case processing centre was closed in September 2018, with operations re-located to Edmonton. Following the relocation, the federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board decided that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada breached the collective agreement of the case processing centre employees by not providing them with adequate departure benefits, such as buyouts and education allowances. The decision required the Public Service Alliance of Canada (the union representing the case processing centre workers) to negotiate and agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The outcome of the negotiations are not known. Although the negotiations likely resulted in workers unwilling to move to Edmonton receiving their collectively bargained benefits, it did not impact the relocation of the case processing centre.
This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met.