Employment Insurance backlogs reaching crisis levels

The Green Party of Canada is calling on the Government of Canada to solve the Employment Insurance (EI) backlog immediately as it is causing immense stress for already suffering families.  “My office is inundated with calls from people struggling without EI and unable to reach anyone by phone.  It is unacceptable to have such long delays,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “These families are already faced with a job loss and then to have to wait for 6 weeks or more to receive their first EI cheque is incredibly stressful.  EI is meant to help tide people over who are straining to pay their mortgages or buy groceries.  It is not helpful if it comes too late.”

Green Social Services Critic Vanessa Long (Green Party candidate for Newmarket-Aurora) said, “I am saddened but unsurprised by the increasing wait times and queue for Employment Insurance benefits. The Harper government doesn’t seem to care about Canadians who are experiencing hard times.”

Ms. Long went on to criticize Human Resources Minister Diane Finley for implying, in a letter to a Charlottetown newspaper, that unionized public-service workers were responsible for delays in issuing EI cheques to unemployed Canadians. In fact, the EI backlog has increased by just over 98% between 2007 and 2010 with the number of claims remaining about the same. Meanwhile, the EI workforce has been cut by 13%, with many full-time positions being converted to part-time and temporary contracts being allowed to expire.

“This continues the Harper Government’s pattern of providing questionable information to Canadians and Parliament, and their continuing attacks on unionized labour. They cheer their Economic Action Plan while many Canadians are still feeling the effects of economic recession,” Ms. Long said.

“Imagine the stress of losing your job, then having your electronic EI application held because of a small error, and then not being able to reach an agent for help because right now 2 of 3 calls to EI are getting a busy signal. Then add the stress of being told, when you do finally get through, that you can’t be helped until after the wait period mandated by the electronic system. The Conservatives are trying to replace service with computers, and community-based centres with centralized processing. How is this helping Canadians in need?” asked Ms. Long.