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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 commission.

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

March 22nd, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Thank you very much.

My first question was touched on already. It came up in previous meetings. It's in respect of the issue of a client sometimes not having appropriate time for preparation--at least, that was the allegation made. My understanding is that a client can ask for adjournment if he only got it a couple days beforehand and was not adequately prepared as a result. That's my first question.

I have three questions in a row here, but could you respond to that? The implication was that people weren't able to be properly prepared, which isn't fair, obviously. Can you respond to that and speak to that issue first?

Noon

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

Paul Thompson

We have fairly generous provisions that allow a hearing to be delayed if there are circumstances there. Éric, do you want to speak to any of the specific circumstances around which a hearing would be delayed?

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

Well, Mr. Vellacott spoke to the adjournment aspect. A client can request it. Ultimately, it's at the chairperson's discretion, but usually the first request for an adjournment generally would be allowed.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

How long a time would that be? Would it be adjourned for a week, 10 days? What's the length of time?

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

It gets rescheduled within 45 days.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

It's within 45 days, so it's not the next day or an adjournment for one day only. Is it a minimum of seven days, or...?

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

We plan hearings fairly far in advance, so we try to find it within the next 45 days.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

But as a minimum, it's not going to be sooner than, say, the next seven days.

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

That's unlikely.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

It's unlikely. Okay.

I'll go to the issue of the training, then, because it was also brought up, and we've touched on it here a little today too. There was an accusation made, in connection particularly with union reps and so on, that in a way all the training came with a bias from the commission. I think that's what I seemed to pick up there.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the “neutral” training by an outside legal firm or entity? Is all of the training provided by an outside legal firm or entity, or is some provided by the commission? Is there an opportunity for a union, say, to get more of those things that would come from their point of view as they make representations or appeals on behalf of people?

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

The training is a joint exercise. The first level is a four-day training period. The commission would have a couple of days to go through the act and summarize how the EI Act works, and also to work through some of the tools that we have on our website to help appellants--and, of course, members--look through jurisprudence to help them make their decisions. Then the outside experts come in and talk about the administrative tribunal practices, such as principles of natural justice, how to conduct a hearing, writing decisions, and that kind of thing.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

So a union or agencies that work on behalf of union members and so on can get any kind of training they want outside. As well, they will certainly get some adequate training here, if they choose, will they? Are they able to get that as well?

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

In part, the board referee is meant to be impartial. The fact that the commissioner for employers would name an employer representative doesn't mean they're supposed to be defending the employer side. They're supposed to be impartial. They're a member of the board of referees and they're there to decide on the appeal before them. Whether it's the president, the employer representative, or the worker representative, it shouldn't matter--

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Okay.

The other thing--

Noon

Director, Employment Insurance Appeal Division, Service Canada

Éric Giguère

--and that's reinforced.

I'm sorry to interrupt.

Noon

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

That's reinforced. Okay.

The other thing that was mentioned may be different in different parts of the country. In previous testimony here, it was mentioned that because the hearings are generally done at the commission's offices in Saskatoon or wherever it has to be, sometimes people feel a little intimidated, let's say, or a little threatened by that. I think that was the inference of the people who brought this up.

Can you talk about that a little bit? I take it, having talked to somebody who has served in that board of referee role, that they have computers and copy machines if they're suddenly quickly required. Can you also touch on what the costs would involve if we were to begin to do these hearings across the country in a backroom or the facility in the back of Sam Wong's restaurant or some other facility? What would be the problems with doing it off-site if that would make for greater ease and for people feeling comfortable coming into these settings?

Noon

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

Paul Thompson

We have the hearings scheduled in the board centres for a number of reasons. There is definitely a cost factor, but there is also a privacy factor. This is confidential client information, and there are system requirements to protect that information. It's a secure facility that we have these hearings in.

We mitigate. It's part of the standard practice for the chair of the board of referees to strongly emphasize at the beginning of every hearing that this is an impartial hearing and that the board of referees acts separately from the commission and the department. It is a very strong part of the practice to emphasize the impartiality of the decision-making while having the ease of access to the documentation and the use of cost-effective facilities.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Candice Bergen

You have 30 seconds.

Is there anybody else?

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

I'll be generous and give my time to Ed.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Candice Bergen

Do you have a quick question, Mr. Komarnicki?

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

It's probably not quick, except that I was pondering how--

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Candice Bergen

Well, we should have a second round, so you'll be able to continue to ponder.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

That's good. I'll probably save it for the second round, but I was pondering how it is there might not be many New Democratic retired judges of various courts.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Candice Bergen

Again, it's out of the scope of the study.

We have a good amount of time, so we'll go to a second round. This will be a five-minute round.

We'll begin with Madam Minna.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Welcome.

Just for confirmation, are the umpires appointed by the commission? Who appoints the umpires?