Question Period Senator Jane Cordy December 4th, 2014
Hon. Jane Cordy: Two years ago, in 2012, I stood in the chamber to question a measure that was buried in one of the government's omnibus bills. The measure in question was the decision to replace the regional Employment Insurance Boards of Referees and umpires and the Pension Appeals Board with a 74-member, full-time Social Security Tribunal.
Serious questions were raised at the time by many stakeholders, fearing that the elimination of the regional EI boards of referees and umpires and the Pension Appeals Board would lead to hardship for some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens: the disabled, the poor and the ill.
The Leader of the Government at the time dismissed the concerns that I raised, and the concerns of Canadians, as a lot of "squawking and screaming." She went on to say:
Let it work and I think honourable senators will find when we are back in the fall that some of these things people were anticipating as disaster will be anything but.
Honourable senators, here we are two years later and we find that the so-called squawking and screaming of Canadians was more than justified. The new Social Security Tribunal has indeed been a disaster. In just over a year and a half, since the tribunal replaced the old boards of appeal, the backlog of appeals has almost doubled from 6,000 to 11,000.
As reported from data obtained from the Access to Information Act, the backlog consists of terminally-ill patients, suicidal and debt-ridden Canadians. Many in the backlog have been waiting for years for a decision. Clearly this tribunal, set up by this government, is not working.
What is the government's plan to ensure that those who have been left waiting by this ineffective tribunal system will have decisions made for them in a timely way?