Evidence of meeting #50 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was board.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Paul Thompson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Processing and Payment Services Branch, Service Canada
  • Éric Giguère  Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

11:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Processing and Payment Services Branch, Service Canada

Paul Thompson

I am going to ask my colleague Mr. Giguère to reply to that question.

11:45 a.m.

Éric Giguère Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

An appeal could be withdrawn for three reasons. Often, it could involve cases where new information has come to light between the Board of Referees decision and the hearing before the umpire. On the basis of the new information, it could happen at that point that we decide to withdraw our appeal.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Could these things not be checked out earlier to avoid having the unemployed person wait so many months? Often, the withdrawal is filed in the days that precede the hearing before the umpire.

11:45 a.m.

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

There are also other cases where we are dealing with an amendment to the act. For instance, the act may have said a certain thing when the decision was made, but it may say something else after an amendment. Such things are beyond our control.

Another possible situation arises when the decision of the Federal Court or another decision by an umpire sets a precedent. This can change the way we apply certain decisions.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

If you happen to have answers that could mitigate these adverse effects, it would be good to share them with the committee so that we can take them into account in our report.

In another connection, something else was drawn to the attention of our committee. Sometimes, hearings before the Board of Referees had to be rescheduled because the recording equipment is obsolete. People go before the umpire, the counsel or the prosecutor has prepared his case, but the testimony turns out to be inaudible.

Are you aware of that? Are you taking any steps? This has happened more than once.

11:45 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Processing and Payment Services Branch, Service Canada

Paul Thompson

There are a limited number of situations where hearings are recorded. Perhaps Mr. Giguère could tell us about this. I am not aware of these situations.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Our speaking time is limited, and I would like to hear your thoughts on another aspect before the end of our work here.

The appointment of arbitrators is political; this is the minister's responsibility and that is fine. However, we are aware that certain arbitrators are very good and others are not. Witnesses who have appeared here have said that they would go so far as to question the cognitive faculties of one particular person to do the work.

Do you have a mechanism to assess the competence of the heads of boards of referees, to see whether they can discharge their duties properly?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Candice Bergen

Thank you.

Be brief, please, Mr. Thompson.

11:45 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Processing and Payment Services Branch, Service Canada

Paul Thompson

I would simply say that this factor would be taken into consideration when the mandate of an arbitrator comes up for renewal.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Candice Bergen

Thanks.

I'm sorry; that's all the time.

Go ahead, Mr. Martin.

March 22nd, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I'd like to follow up on the question from Mr. Lessard. In my constituency office, we do a lot of EI work. We have a good office in Sault Ste. Marie that tries its best to respond and provide information to assist people. Since all of this work is being centralized, there's no opportunity for a person to get into the Service Canada office and see somebody who understands the local conditions and the local issues that often need to be addressed, so people come back to us and we have to intervene on their behalf.

First of all, we explain to them as simply as we can what the process is and what the regulations say, so that they can determine whether they should appeal or not. If that information were more clearly set out and if we had people at the local level in the local office who understood the conditions of the labour force and the employment circumstances in our area, then we would have way fewer of these appeals, but ultimately they appeal, although they don't always get their request in on time.

When they finally get to a place where they appeal, to whom are they appealing? Mr. Lessard asked about the requirements. What are the qualifications necessary for referees, these vice-chairs or local chairs? The only obvious one so far, in my seven years in this job....

After the present government came to power, they said they were going to set up an appointments commissioner to review all of these appointments to make sure they were done properly—

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Candice Bergen

I'm sorry, Mr. Martin, but we're really straying off topic. Could we try to stay on the topic at hand, which is looking at the procedures and practices for appealing a decision by the employment insurance board of referees. It's actually that decision—

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

There's a large context here from which all of us come, because we deal with these things every day in our offices. We thought the government was going to put in place a process that would be at arm's length from these appointments. It's the referees and the qualifications of the referees that concern me. I was going to say, before I was interrupted, that the only consistent qualification is that previously they had to be Liberals and now they have to be Conservatives. That concerns me.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Candice Bergen

Do you have a point of order, Mr. Komarnicki?

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

I do. There are a couple of things.

First of all, the motion by Monsieur Lessard deals with studying the procedures and practices for appealing a decision of the employment insurance boards of referees to the umpire, and that's what you presented. We haven't focused on that aspect at all in this study. We focused on the appeal provisions from the commission to the boards of referees, and if that's where we wanted to focus, perhaps that motion could have been better worded.

The motion restricts us to looking at the procedure process from the board of referees to the umpire, as you correctly pointed out in your opening remarks. It's on the practice and procedure and the process. It's not about appointments. When we talk about the process from the board of referees to the umpire, the umpire judges—