Some Canadian Forces soldiers will continue to be stationed at Area Support Unit Chilliwack, but the loss of more than a dozen wellpaying jobs is bad news for the city, according to Mayor Sharon Gaetz.
"It affects every neighbourhood," she told the Times. "These are civilians, they volunteer in our community . . . they're part of our community so of course we really care deeply and feel sad these cuts have to be made."
Last week, the Union of National Defence Employees was told that 18 positions at ASU Chilliwack would be eliminated as part of nationwide cuts to the Department of National Defence.
While the union was told that ASU Chilliwack could close-and although the closures of army support units was presented as an option in an internal army plan obtained by the Ottawa Citizen in March-Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl said in a press release Thursday that he has "been assured that the Canadian Forces will continue to maintain a permanent presence in Chilliwack as some personnel transition elsewhere to meet emerging needs."
In the press release, Strahl said no changes will occur until next year. He said the changes are meant to "streamline the procurement of support equipment and spare parts and enhance human resources management."
The Times requested an interview, but Strahl was not available.
Gaetz heard the news of the cuts from an ASU Chilliwack employee Wednesday afternoon.
"We know that right now we have engineers that are on the base and apparently they will remain. It will be used as a garrison so people coming home from Afghanistan will be in Chilliwack for a period of time," she said. "But I still think this is really sad for the city of Chilliwack. You think of 30 people out of work, that's a huge hit to any community. . . We're very disappointed."
Gaetz spoke Wednesday to Strahl, who reiterated that the cuts would take place in 2013 and that the army would retain a presence in Chilliwack.
"We're a little bit touchy about touching the military because we live in an area that is prone to earthquakes and flooding and so we want to make sure that there is a continued military presence," said Gaetz.
But she wished more information was forthcoming. "I just really hope that we soon hear more news from the federal government. It's a little disconcerting to hear it from the employees before the government."
UNDE vice-president for British Columbia T. Mark Miller said the Department of National Defence is looking to "divest" some of its infrastructure and land to the Canada Lands Corporation, the federal Crown corporation that helped develop the adjacent Canada Education Park.
He said that it was possible that a small number of civilian jobs, in the single digits, may be maintained at the site.
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