Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims (Newton—North Delta, NDP): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the chair of the social security tribunal told the human resources committee that she had been in continuous contact with the minister regarding the backlog.
Yet, for 18 months now, that backlog has continued to grow while the tribunal has been understaffed and working without performance standards. More than 14,600 Canadians are now waiting for a hearing.
All of this begs the question: Why did the minister not take action sooner to address the enormous mess at the social security tribunal?
Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Mr. Speaker, again, in fact our ministry did take action by introducing a new approach towards reconsideration of EI refusals. That now happens quickly, by a public servant who, remarkably, actually picks up a phone and calls the person who has asked for a reconsideration, and sorts it out, often getting additional documentation.
This means that we are now resolving about 90% of those refusals at a reconsideration stage in a matter of weeks, without having to go through a lengthy multi-month quasi-judicial process.
In terms of the CPP cases before the tribunal, we are adding additional decision-makers and taking other administrative measures to speed up the process.
Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP): Mr. Speaker, behind every one of those numbers is a person who needs to put food on the table and pay the bills.
People cannot wait years for the government to get its act together. Nearly 10,000 Canadians still waiting for an appeal are living with a disability. In many cases the uncertainty and stress of financial insecurity makes their medical conditions worse.
Will the minister commit to eliminate the backlog and finally give these Canadians the justice they need and deserve?
Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, CPC): Yes, I will, Mr. Speaker. That is, in part, why we have legislation before the House in the budget implementation act, which we hope the NDP will support, which would allow us to hire up to an additional 22 decision makers at the tribunal.
I am very pleased to highlight that the faster informal reconsideration process for refused EI applications would mean a 90% reduction in the caseload for EI, which would mean that we could reallocate those decision makers over to the income security division, which would mean that we would get at that backlog of cases so that we could provide the kind of service that Canadians expect and deserve.