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NDP news release

by Allison Schmidt 13 June 2014 11:19

2014 06 13

Conservative Social Security mismanagement leaves thousands scrambling

The Conservatives have grossly mismanaged the transition to the new Social Security Tribunal, leaving thousands of Canadians waiting months—without income—before eventually receiving a hearing.

“The Conservatives took an appeal system that was working and completely broke it,” said Jinny Sims (Newton–North Delta), NDP critic for Employment and Social Development. “They had more than a year to prepare for this transition, yet Conservative mismanagement means we’ve ended up with a Tribunal that isn’t fully staffed and has hardly held any hearings.”

Statistics released today reveal that the Income Security Section heard only 178 appeals in its first year. At this pace, it will take 9.5 years to hear all current income security appeals—without taking into account any new appeals.

“There are more than 9,000 Canadians waiting for a CPP or OAS hearing,” added Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert), NDP deputy critic for Employment and Social Development. “These are disabled Canadians and seniors who have little or no income and need to pay bills and buy groceries. They can’t wait years for this government to get its act together.”

And the questions:

   Mme Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NPD): Monsieur le Président, des milliers de Canadiens n'ont pas accès aux prestations d'invalidité en raison de la mauvaise gestion des conservateurs. Certaines personnes attendent depuis plus d'un an d'être entendues par le Tribunal de la sécurité sociale en raison du manque de juges-arbitres.

 

    Au rythme où vont les choses, même si le tribunal n'avait aucun nouveau dossier à traiter, ça prendrait neuf ans avant que la machine ne reprenne le dessus et c'est inacceptable.

 

    Le ministre trouve-t-il normal que des gens décèdent avant d'avoir accès aux prestations auxquelles ils ont droit?

 

Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Social Security Tribunal started its operations on April 1, 2013 and received higher than anticipated caseloads from the legacy tribunals. These income security legacy cases are all deemed ready to proceed as of April 1, 2014, according to the regulations. The SST is giving top priority to these legacy cases.

 

Mme Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NPD): Monsieur le Président, la section de la sécurité du revenu ne compte que 35 juges-arbitres et elle doit faire face à un retard accumulé de 3 700 dossiers. En éliminant le recours aux 1 000 juges-arbitres à temps partiel, le gouvernement conservateur a amplifié la crise. Les plus démunis sont, encore une fois, les premières victimes de la négligence et de l'incurie de ce gouvernement.

 

    Quelles mesures d'urgence le gouvernement entend-il prendre pour faire face aux méga-cafouillage que l'on connaît au Tribunal de la sécurité sociale?

 

Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Social Security Tribunal is dealing with these legacy cases that were left over from previous tribunals. We have taken steps to make sure that we are aligned in this process from coast to coast to coast so we can have consistency in the decisions that are made.

 

   Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Conservatives are turning their backs on disabled Canadians across the country and gutting services that people rely on. Thousands of Canadians who have been denied disability benefits are still waiting for a hearing. As of last April, there were 1,000 fewer referees hearing appeals. The tribunal now has a backlog of 10,000 cases, and only managed to hear 348 appeals last year.

 

    It is a great example of the Conservatives breaking something that did not need fixing. Why did the Conservatives create a tribunal that is designed to fail?

 

Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am not sure. We fixed a problem because we wanted to make sure that there was consistency among decisions from coast to coast to coast. Now, with the new Social Security Tribunal, we do have a case of backlogs that were left from the previous legacy tribunals. These are being cleared. As of April 1, 2014, these cases are now being heard. We are going to clear up the backlog.

 

Mme Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, NPD): Monsieur le Président, ce n'est pas vrai que le problème est réglé, Quand c'est le temps de piger dans nos poches, les conservateurs trouvent ça bien facile, mais, quand c'est le temps de verser aux citoyens les prestations qui leur reviennent, ça devient compliqué. Pensons seulement aux difficultés pour accéder au Supplément de revenu garanti ou aux crédits d'impôt pour personnes handicapées. Ce sont toujours les plus démunis qui sont les premières victimes du gouvernement conservateur. Que va faire le gouvernement pour redresser la situation au Tribunal de la sécurité sociale et pour s'assurer que ceux qui ont cotisé au régime de pension accèdent aux prestations d'invalidité auxquels ils ont droit?

 

Mr. Scott Armstrong (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the SST and the government are committed to providing fair, credible and impartial appeal processes in a timely manner to those people who apply. The SST is an independent administrative tribunal. It operates at arm's length from the department.

 

    The department and the SST are now putting these legacy cases at the top of the priority list. We are going to clear up that backlog.

 


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