Stephen Harper is turning his back on rural Canadians and leaving many without access to federal services, information and resources following his government’s decision to close Service Canada Community Offices in Atlantic Canada, Liberal MPs said today.
“The Harper government doesn’t care about the needs and challenges of rural residents,” said Liberal Human Resources and Skills Development Critic Mike Savage. “Otherwise, why would they cut off access to essential programs such as Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan?”
Service Canada Community Offices were established as a pilot program nearly a decade ago in rural areas across the country to connect Canadians to essential government services, including Revenue Canada, passport services, the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance.
Last week, it was reported that the Conservative government will close five offices in Cape Breton and 13 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“By closing the Service Canada community offices in Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives are essentially cutting services to rural Canadians,” added Liberal Rural Affairs Critic Mark Eyking. “Rural Canadians need more service, but we keep getting less. In recent years, we have seen our mail service reduced, and many residents don’t have access to high-speed internet for accessing these government websites.”
“The Conservatives also didn’t take into account official language requirements and the needs of seniors,” said Rodger Cuzner, Liberal MP for Cape Breton-Canso. “In my riding, two francophone communities will be dramatically affected since the majority of them are fixed-income seniors who require service in French. Now they will have to travel up to 50 kilometres for in-person service. How is that fair?”
“Shutting down the offices also takes away local jobs for the people who worked in these offices,” added Judy Foote, Liberal MP for Random-Burin-St. George’s. “These small communities can’t afford job losses.”
“Unlike the Harper government, Liberals want rural residents to have similar levels of service as those living in urban areas,” said Mr. Eyking.
The Liberal Party’s ’Rural Canada Matters’ initiative aims to bridge the divide between rural and urban communities with Canada’s first-ever National Food Policy, support for volunteer fire-fighters, universal high-speed internet, restored mail service, and measures to bring more doctors and nurses to rural and remote areas.