Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, I asked the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development if she was prepared to acknowledge that the backlog in processing claims at Service Canada was because of cuts and bad decisions made by her government.
In her response in this House, she said that, under the economic action plan to deal with the global recession, quite a number of additional personnel were engaged on a short-term basis at Service Canada. She added that, since the unemployment rate was down, those people were no longer necessary. For all practical purposes, Canadians who needed Service Canada—for instance, to obtain their EI benefits—should have seen their claims processed in a timely manner.
I would like to know where the minister gets her data, given that, according to Statistics Canada, in December 2011, the unemployment rate rose by exactly 0.1% to 7.5%. In January 2012, the Canadian unemployment rate rose by 0.1 % once again to 7.6%.
This figure is much higher than the government's predictions of rapid economic recovery suggested. Moreover, we are a long way from the 6% unemployment rate that prevailed in 2007, just before the global recession began.
I would like the minister to explain her government's actions, given that the Service Canada cuts fly in the face of the numbers, the facts and Canadians' needs, while our economic situation remains fragile.
Thousands of Service Canada jobs have been cut since last spring. Canadians do not understand the government's actions, but they do know that those cuts have had a major impact on service quality and efficiency. How else can we explain the incredibly long delays in claims processing just when families need support, when they need their employment insurance benefits?
Do we need to remind the government that Canadians pay for these services out of their taxes and that, when they contribute to an employment insurance plan, they expect it to be available when they need it? For example, one of my constituents who works for SNC Lavalin has to collect employment insurance every winter because that is the nature of his work. He submitted his claim on November 28. He finally received his employment insurance benefits on February 24, 2012, which is a delay of nearly three months. He says that this is the most unreasonable delay he has experienced in 35 years.
After 13 weeks with no income, his reserves were long past depleted. How can the Conservatives justify the fact that this man had to max out his credit cards to make ends meet and provide for his family? Do they know many people who can cover the cost of 13 weeks with no money coming in?
If Service Canada cannot provide satisfactory service within a reasonable period of time right now, we are headed for catastrophe if the unemployment rate goes up. How does the government plan to deal with the potential service bottleneck? Canadians demand transparency and accountability. I want to get that for them.