SASKATOON — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says hundreds of millions of dollars are lost through false or inappropriate employment insurance claims and the federal government wants to curb that.
Federal workers are now visiting employment insurance recipients at home, the prime minister confirmed Thursday in response to a report from The Canadian Press. He said the government must ensure the EI system’s integrity.
“Every year, unfortunately, in our Employment Insurance system hundreds of millions of dollars are identified or are lost through false, or fraudulent, or inappropriate claims,” Harper said while in Saskatoon for an unrelated announcement.
“One of the jobs of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is to ensure that the funds in the employment insurance system are there for people who have lost their jobs, who qualify, and who need that help.”
He spoke following a report that public servants have been making unannounced visits since January, as part of an examination being conducted while the EI program is overhauled.
During those visits federal employees have been hand-delivering questionnaires and requests for people to appear at their regular EI interviews.
About 1,200 EI beneficiaries will be receiving the visits, through the end of next month. A group of 50 federal civil servants have been assigned to make the house calls.
A federal workers’ union representative has told The Canadian Press that she had already been concerned for government employees because of the controversy over EI changes.
From now on, people who frequently claim EI are expected to accept any job for which they’re qualified, within 100 kilometres of home, as long as the pay is 70 per cent of their previous salary.
They must also prove they’re actively seeking work.
Opponents say the plan is particularly harsh on Atlantic Canada and Quebec, which have a number of seasonal industries.