The Veterans Affairs office in Kelowna is scheduled to shutter its doors in the next two years, as operations are shifted to the Penticton branch.
Kelowna’s closure is just one among nine Veterans Affairs office closures across the country, and represents a federal mandate that will ultimately eliminate one-in-three frontline service workers by 2015.
The concern among is that the cutbacks will force veterans to deal with a representative from a US company, via a toll free number, or through online services — a task many may not be up to.
Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan said, however, that Okanagan veterans should expect to see a similar level of service as they have in the past.
“The same services will be provided and people who need face to face help at their homes … those will be provided from Penticton,” he said.
The decision to shift operations south, he said, comes from the fact that the Penticton office serves a higher number of clients, so the need for a storefront in that region is more pronounced.
That said, it’s not a closure he’s happy to see.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary,” he said. “We have to live within our means, and the reality is that a leaner government is better for all Canadians in the long run. We’ve seen what happened in Greece all and other countries that live beyond their means.”
Cannan said he’s doesn’t believe many of the six jobs in the lurch will be lost in the shuffle, as employees have access to everything from bumping rights to buy-out packages.
This latest sign of the federal government services receding from the community follows an earlier announcement that Citizenship Immigration Canada offices were closing in the region.
The cut of offices across smaller cities in B.C., means access to citizenship and immigration services will only be available by phone or over the internet.
Cannan believes that the loss of these two offices should be the last of cuts in the area.
The only remaining cut is contingent on whether the one person working in Kelowna in the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, will transfer to Vancouver.