Question Period: Employment Insurance—Processing Times

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Could wearing a Canadian flag, Toronto

Hon. Diane Bellemare: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Gold, an article published in La Presse on May 11 was entitled “Mieux vaut être riche pour tomber sur le chômage,” or “you better be rich if you end up unemployed.” I am not the only one to talk about this problem. The article begins as follows:

With the unemployment rate at an all-time low, Ottawa is certainly not overburdened by EI claims. However, it can take four, even five months before a claimant gets their first payment.

Employment Insurance may indeed be complicated, but nothing justifies such wait times. According to La Presse, officials even suggested to claimants that they sell their possessions to make ends meet. That is appalling.

I join my voice to those who are calling out this situation. EI is an insurance, not a social assistance program. Contributors who are entitled to EI should not have to show that they are destitute. This problem is not related to the future EI reform but rather to the application of the current legislation.

What urgent measures is the government planning to take or has taken to require Service Canada to pay the benefits that the unemployed are entitled to receive in a dignified manner and on time, meaning within 28-days, without having to call their MP?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for highlighting this important issue that affects far too many people. Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to your question, but I will follow up with the government and endeavour to provide senators with the answer.

Senator Bellemare: Senator Gold, when will we have the opportunity to discuss with Minister Qualtrough the urgent need for EI reform?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. As you well know, we are working to invite ministers to participate in exchanges with the Senate. This creates opportunities to delve into the issues associated with ministerial portfolios.

I note the interest you are showing in this ministerial portfolio. I understand that you recently had the opportunity to speak with the minister. The minister remains engaged with the Senate. She made herself available on several occasions during the pandemic. I am certain that the minister will make herself available to appear before the Senate in the near future.

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