Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton stood Question Period on Tuesday to call for the Service Canada office in Maple Ridge to be re-opened immediately.
The next day it was.
The office closed in March, and Dalton noted there are Service Canada offices open in Langley and Surrey, and other organizations such as schools, businesses and city halls have all re-opened.
“Mr. Speaker, this government constantly tries to distract Canadians from their failures and scandals by saying they’re focused on COVID and services for people. Not true in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.”
He said the Service Canada office has been closed for months. Dalton’s office staff in the riding has had to pick up the slack, helping people to access federal government services.
“Not everyone can access a website or stay on hold all day praying that someone picks it up,” said Dalton.
“Would the minister responsible for ignoring the needs of my constituents apologize and commit to reopening our office immediately?”
If Dalton appears testy in the video, it was by design.
“I was trying to express the exasperation people in the riding are feeling,” he said.
“Because of the shutdown, a lot more people have had to access CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), EI and other programs,” said Dalton.
“If ever there was a time for Service Canada to be open, it’s during COVID-19,” he added. “A lot of people are living week to week. It’s been a tough time.”
He said government services have been overwhelmed, and he has heard reports of people waiting on the phone for as long as five hours to get assistance.
The answer from Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen was that the the government is committed to ensuring Canadians can access service Canada.
“We’ve already safely reopened more than 260 Service Canada centers right across the country. Decisions about reopening are being guided by our world-class public health officials and with a priority that as many Canadians as possible will get the benefits they deserve.”
The Service Canada office at 22325 Lougheed Highway had been closed until further notice, but on Wednesday it opened. There is priority access for clients with appointments, or those dropping off documents who do not need to speak to a Service Canada officer, but members of the public can again walk in.
Staff at the office would not discuss how long the reopening had been planned.