Most claimants lose EI appeals; dismissal rate remains high

New social-security tribunal isn’t providing more aid to Canadians, documents show

OTTAWA — The plight of jobless Canadians denied employment insurance benefits hasn’t improved under the federal government’s new social-security tribunal during the first year of its existence, documents show.

The general division of the tribunal made decisions on 1,075 employment insurance appeals from April 1, 2013 — its first day of operation — until mid-March of this year.

Of those appeals, 866 of the original rulings to deny employment insurance benefits to claimants were upheld, including 71 “late appeals refused,” according to documents obtained under freedom-to-information legislation and provided to The Canadian Press.

Only 209 decisions were overturned, amounting to an appeal dismissal rate of just over 80 per cent. That’s marginally higher than the rate in previous years under the old regime, according to government data.

Neil Cohen of the Community Unemployed Help Centre in Winnipeg says he expects the dismissal rate could grow even higher under the new tribunal.

“This is a system that wasn’t designed to work — it works very well for the government, but not for average Canadians,” he said. “It has deterrents built right into it, components that discourage claimants from participating.”

For example, Cohen said, three people — an employee representative, an employer representative and a chairperson — have been replaced in the new system by one Conservative government appointee.

As well, the majority of hearings on EI appeals are now held via teleconference or video conference, not in person.

“When the person’s there, sitting in front of you, it’s a lot easier to assess credibility. It’s like a job interview — most people would far prefer to do the interview in person rather than having someone decide their fate over a computer screen or a telephone,” Cohen said.

The tribunal was created with the goal of providing a more efficient appeal process for EI, Canada Pension Plan and old-age security decisions. The Conservatives said the new system, which replaced several boards comprised of hundreds of part-time employees, would save taxpayers $25 million annually.

The 80 per cent dismissal rate came in the months following the Conservative government’s contentious overhaul of the Employment Insurance system last year.

Starting in January 2013, people collecting employment insurance faced stricter, more complex rules for keeping their benefits, with the goal of getting unemployed workers back into the workforce sooner.

The new regulations encouraged unemployed workers to take available jobs fairly close to home, even if they paid less than their previous work.

As always, EI claimants were required to be engaged in a “reasonable job search” to find suitable employment. But under the new rules, the search has to involve researching job opportunities, preparing a resume, registering for job banks, attending job fairs, applying for jobs and undergoing competency evaluations.

Unions and opposition MPs have accused the Conservatives of unduly punishing seasonal workers and Maritimers.

The social security tribunal has been straining under a growing backlog of 10,000 outstanding appeals. The tribunal was seriously under-staffed its first year, with several full-time positions remaining vacant until last month.

There are fewer than 70 full-time appointees on the tribunal — several of whom donated money to the Conservative party, public records show.




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Most claimants lose EI appeals; dismissal rate remains high

  1. Harper & Co are working hard to figure out how to get Canadian workers on the same footing as TFW’s,
    having to pay the 1.88% premium for EI and NEVER being eligible to collect it would leave the government a serious chunk of change to buy votes. The Tribunal seems a good start.

  2. Using omnibus budget bills that Cons pushed through Har-liament, Harper Cons set up their own, new crown corporation to handle their new Employment Insurance laws.

    “Mr. Flaherty’s 2010 budget closed down the old federal EI Account, with its … surplus ($57,859,571,696), transferring the money into the government’s general revenues” (Canada Free Press, February 2013).

    Our MA graduate in economics PM is known to have increased the national debt by nearly $180 BILLION. Additional EI funds that Harper & Company “moved” from our taxpayer account disguise the unsavory fact that the total amount Harper’s Cons have increased the national debt is $237 BILLION … and now they have created legislation and procedures that make it easy to kick as many EI applicants as they can to the curb.

    This is a government no one needs, wants or deserves in Canada.

  3. This article inspired me to research EI facts:

    - During 1986, Mulroney Conservatives consolidated the EI account with the rest of the budget so some of the funds began to be used for other government costs (CD Howe Institute);

    - as of March 31, 2007 (during HarperCon’s first term), the EI surplus was $54.1 BILLION (the Star);

    - as of March, 2008 (also during HarperCon’s first term), “a large surplus has been built up in the EI fund amounting to some $57 BILLION” (250news);

    - “the Conservative government … announced that it …has formed the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, which supposedly will now ensure the funds are used solely for unemployment related purposes … Aside from $2 BILLION in start up money, the approximately $55 BILLION that is owed will not be returned to the fund. The government gets to keep it all, even though it contributed nothing” (the Star);

    - “In the 2008 budget, ‘Harper’s Conservtives vowed to set up an independent Crown corporation to manage the EI surplus ‘on a truly break-even basis,’ and ensure it was spent on unemployed workers. But the government didn’t offer to restore amounts critics say was diverted from the system” (the Star).

    - “Jack Layton called the Conservative transfer of funds ‘the biggest theft in Canadian history’ ” (taxpayerblog.com);

    - Locating information about this shady EI $57 BILLION shuffle is difficult to find on the Internet; apparently, Harper made quite a stink about the huge Liberal EI surplus, and other media coverage is limited. Mostly what is posted are Harper’s vehement attacks on Martin Liberals about how they collected EI by using the wrong legal authorities. Sometime between 2001 and 2009, Auditor General Michael Ferguson “couldn’t find” $3.1 BILLION (National Post) in general revenues, and I have no doubt handling $57 BILLION is difficult.

    With this EI background, several things become clear:

    (1) HarperCons have increased the national debt by almost $180 BILLION that the public is aware of, PLUS an additional $55 BILLION from EI coffers that they did not return to taxpayers when they transferred $2 BILLION of our EI funds to their new Crown Corporation, so they have actually increased the national debt by $235 BILLION;

    (2) the new structure that was to “ensure [EI] was spent on unemployed workers” is today very often the same one used to deny benefits, even on appeal;

    (3) currently, there is no posted information about surplus amounts in our EI fund. Given that the fund was accumulating a surplus of about $5 BILLION a year (before Harper set up his own Crown Corporation) and the number of successful claims is being reduced, where are the surplus funds now going?

    (4) MOST IMPORTANTLY – it is time to force HarperCons to account for income and expenditures so we can ensure our EI contributors qualify for assistance from a fund they were forced to contribute to while working!

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