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

Supporters gather outside GraceLife Church near Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday, April 11, 2021. The church has been fenced off by police and Alberta Health Services in violation of COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

GraceLife Church and its pastor, are charged for holding services that break health restrictions

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read