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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read