Information regarding the Canada Pension Plan is displayed of the Service Canada website in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Information regarding the Canada Pension Plan is displayed of the Service Canada website in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Liberals’ two-year-old pledge to revamp EI, CPP appeals body delayed due to COVID-19

The legislative change are expected to be in this year’s budget bill, say the sources

COVID-19 has all but stalled a promised shift in how Canadians appeal rulings on their requests for federal income supports.

The department overseeing the work, Employment and Social Development Canada, says the change won’t happen as originally scheduled next month because of pandemic-related risks.

In 2019, the Liberals promised to partially restore the system that existed before the previous Conservative government created the Social Security Tribunal in 2013.

The Liberals planned to bring back board hearings for the first layer of appeals inside the Social Security Tribunal, and retain a single arbitrator for the second, final, layer.

Three sources with knowledge of the government’s plans tell The Canadian Press the required legislative changes were to be in last year’s budget, which was shelved due to the pandemic.

The legislative change are expected to be in this year’s budget bill, say the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to detail private conservations, or because they were not authorized to speak publicly about matters not yet public.

The eight-year-old tribunal replaced four separate bodies that heard appeals from Canadians who disagreed with the government’s decisions on their applications for employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, or old age security benefits.

Key changes included cutting the number of people hearing most cases from three to one, and replacing part-time hearing officials in many places with full-time staff in fewer locations.

Shortly after the revamped tribunal launched, it ran into problems, with months- and even years-long delays for hearings and decisions that were traced back to being understaffed and missing a transition plan.

Processing times have improved since. The latest figures from the tribunal show the first layer of EI appeals took on average 36 days, and 74 for CPP or disability benefits so far this fiscal year. The figures for the second, and final, appeal were 21 days and 89 days respectively.

“What’s more, we’ve had no backlog of appeals during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said tribunal spokeswoman Stephanie black.

She also noted that 94 per cent of appellants who responded to a user survey said they were happy with the speed of appeals, and 93 per cent were satisfied with the appeal process overall.

A spokeswoman for ESDC said changes to the recourse process and the Social Security Tribunal, or SST for short, will run in parallel with the government’s promise to update the employment insurance system.

“The department recognizes that during a pandemic, there are significant additional risks associated with implementing these changes, which could negatively affect the existing process,” Marie-Eve Sigouin-Campeau said in an email.

“The SST can continue deliver very valuable work and service to Canadians in these uncertain times, but stability is important because (case) inventories may increase as a result of COVID-19 and the significant number of EI claims due to the pandemic.”

When the Liberals set aside $253.8 million over five years, beginning in April, to make the system easier to navigate and shorten decision times by bringing back the three-panel hearings that included a representative each from labour and employers, plus a government chairperson.

Department officials were hinting last year that the new structure wouldn’t be as big as the old one.

Instead of hiring about 900 panel members, spread through communities across the country, sources said the department planned to hire one-third the amount because it expected to have one-third of the amount of appeals the previous system handled.

Panel members only get paid for each hearing, meaning costs would be based on the number of appeals, not the number of referees.

Sources also said the government is interested in having the new appeal body overseen by a cabinet appointee who would report to the deputy minister at ESDC, who also acts as chair of the federal EI commission.

That kind of governance structure could lead stakeholders involved in the EI system, for instance, to complain about accountability issues similar to ones lodged originally when the Social Security Tribunal launched.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

EI reviewLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read