UPDATED: Surrey Tax Centre in Whalley to become a National Verification and Collections Centre

Surrey MP Dianne Watts says many jobs will be lost. Surrey's four Liberal MPs weigh in to "clarify some of the misinformation."

The Canada Revenue Agency building on King George Boulevard in Surrey

SURREY —Local Tory MP and former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts is slamming the federal Liberal government for cutting jobs at Surrey’s Tax Centre.

A Jan. 18 press release from the South Surrey-White Rock MP says “the federal Liberal government is leaving 75 employees without jobs, and their families without options, and is forcing an additional 330 workers to either move across Canada, or take a demotion.”

Watts said the Liberals are cutting 405 jobs from the tax centre — over half the processing jobs there.

“Some are outright losing their jobs with no other opportunities provided to them,” Watts said. “The only options for the remaining employees are to move their families across the country, or be demoted somewhere outside of Surrey in the Lower Mainland.

“The Liberals are telling employees that the Surrey Tax Centre will grow in size and add over 70 fulltime-equivalent positions,” Watts said, “but what they are not telling them is these positions will be lower level, lower paid, non-complex jobs. Some employees will have the option of keeping their current position, but only if they move their families across the country to Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec or Prince Edward Island. This will have a negative impact not only on affected employees, but on their spouses’ jobs, Surrey businesses, our school systems, and our community at large.”

Surrey’s four Liberal MPs John Aldag, Sukh Dhaliwal, Randeep Sarai and Ken Hardie, in response, issued a joint statement on Jan. 23 “to clarify some of the misinformation circulated to the media this past week.”

It pretty much reflected what the Now reported this past November.

As the Now reported in 2016, people who prefer to do their taxes old-school will still be able to drop paper returns off at Surrey’s Tax Centre in Whalley, in one of the boxes outside. But inside the building, the times are a-changing.

“Folks won’t notice the difference. It’ll be seamless,” David Morgan, communications manager of Canada Revenue Agency’s Pacific Region, told the Now in November. “We’ll still have the drop box.”

Surrey’s Tax Centre, at 9755 King George Boulevard, is one of three sites nationally that will be converted from a processing centre into a national verification and collection centre.

The other two are in Shawinigan, Quebec and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

A CRA press bulletin said this will “enhance the agency’s delivery of the collection, compliance and verification programs that handle non-complex, non-face-to-face files” resulting in more permanent jobs and and fewer “term” positions.

According to a CRA “backgrounder” document, this is part of the agency’s move to modernize services. Since 2005, it states, the number of Canadians filing online has grown from 12 million to more than 23 million.

This year, roughly 16 per cent of Canadians filed their tax returns on paper, representing about a 66 per cent drop over the past decade.

“Service renewal will improve service delivery to Canadians, offer continued opportunity to employees and ensure a strong presence in all regions of the country,” said Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier. “This will improve the CRA’s effectiveness, and strengthen its ability to deliver on the Government of Canada’s mandate and better serve Canadians.”

But what will this mean for staff at the Surrey Tax Centre?

Morgan said the change in Surrey will result in more permanent and fewer term positions and will require a “work location change for some employees within the Lower Mainland.

“Although fewer term opportunities may be available in certain areas as the paper-based workloads decrease and processing activities move to other centres, the nature of CRA’s work will continue to require term employees,” Morgan told the Now. “In addition, term employees may be able to apply for incoming permanent positions and other term opportunities.”

Morgan said if employees “are impacted, they will be supported.”

In Surrey, the CRA has more than 3,300 full-time workers and approximately 740 in Surrey’s processing centre dedicated to “processing activities.” As a result of the service renewal initiative, Morgan said, the CRA “projects an additional fifty FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents) to be added to the new Surrey National Verification and Collections Centre.

“The Centre will continue to grow,” he told the Now.

Meantime, “four hundred and five relocation letters have been issued to employees in Surrey. These individuals can choose to relocate to other processing centres across the country or the large majority can accept a new position in an office within forty kilometres. Employees have six months to decide if they will relocate with the work.”

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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