Human Resources and Skills Development Parental Leave – Health Benefits


Question Period: Parental Leave—Health Benefits Senator Jane Cordy April 25th, 2013

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, on March 26 of this year, in response to questions in this chamber from Senator Munson, the leader stated that the government is working to resolve the Jane Kittmer EI case, which the Harper government has chosen to appeal to the courts. This appeal by the Harper government, if successful, will deny about $5,000 to Jane Kittmer, who was denied Employment Insurance sickness benefits because she was diagnosed with breast cancer while on maternity parental benefits. This is despite a precedent-setting case involving Natalya Rougas, when an EI umpire ruled that she was indeed entitled to sick benefits in addition to her maternal and parental benefits.

By the way, the Conservative government has done away with the EI umpires in last year's budget, so there will be no more EI appeals to an umpire. If the department misinterprets the spirit of the law, there will be no umpires for people to appear before.

This court appeal by the Harper government is despite the passage of Bill C-44, the Helping Families in Need Act. This court appeal has not helped Jane Kittmer and her family. Has the Jane Kittmer case been resolved and has the Harper government dropped its court appeal?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I recall Senator Munson's question. I have nothing at this moment to report further to my answer at that time that the government was working to resolve this particular case.

Senator Cordy: It would be very easy to resolve if the Harper government would drop its court appeal in the case.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate stated that the Jane Kittmer case falls under legislation from the previous government. The Prime Minister also stated, "The fact of the matter is this is a case under the previous rules . . . ." In fact, that is not correct. Even though the leader and the Prime Minister have stated that, in fact Bill C-44 is a clarification of a bill passed by the Liberal government in 2002.

Bill C-49, which was passed in 2002, removed the caps or the anti-stacking rules and removed the barrier to making sickness claims while on parental leave. In fact, I asked Minister Finley, when she appeared before our committee, if this was just a clarification in lieu of the umpire's decision. She said that, yes, in fact it was just a clarification, not new legislation. The comment that it is previous legislation, which is what the leader and the Prime Minister have both said, is incorrect.

By the way, the Conservatives voted against Bill C-49 in 2002, so perhaps that is why the Harper government has appealed the Jane Kittmer case.

Again I ask: Why is the Harper government denying benefits to Jane Kittmer?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. I have nothing more to add to what I reported when Senator Munson asked the question in late March and to what I said to Senator Cordy in my first response. I will take her second question as notice and seek further information.