Newspaper article The Canadian Press

What Happened to Plan to Prevent Appeals Backlog at Social Security Tribunal?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

What Happened to Plan to Prevent Appeals Backlog at Social Security Tribunal?

Article excerpt

Tribunal troubles date back to 2012

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OTTAWA - In 2012, prior to the launch of Ottawa's troubled social security tribunal, there was a plan in the works to ensure Canadians denied employment insurance or Canada Pension Plan benefits would have their appeals heard in a timely way.

Sue Foster, a federal government official, told a Senate finance committee in May of that year that by the summer, regulations would be drafted to make sure appeals would be heard within 100 days under the new system.

Two years later, the tribunal is now plagued with an 11,000-case backlog -- mostly ailing Canadians seeking CPP disability benefits, now caught in a pileup that's forcing them to wait years to have their appeals heard.

"Legislating the timelines associated with this is meant to improve the service to clients in terms of the period of time that they have to wait for their appeals to be heard," Foster told the committee in May 2012, 11 months before the tribunal officially began operation.

"They have not actually been drafted yet, but they will be drafted in the summer."

At the time, Foster was with the department that's now known as Employment and Social Development and helmed by Jason Kenney.

Employment and Social Development Canada says regulations were in fact drafted to ensure Canadians heard back promptly from the department regarding the status of their appeals.

An official for the department also said the tribunal has hired an outside firm to come up with a plan to shrink the backlog as quickly as possible.

Earlier this week, Kenney told a parliamentary committee that the government was unaware when it launched the new panel in April 2013 that it was inheriting a backlog of 7,000 appeals from the former pension review tribunal.

He added he was personally "dismayed to learn" about the backlog when he took over the portfolio from Diane Finley in July 2013.

The former head of the pension review tribunal, Julie Gagnon, could not be reached for comment on Friday about whether her officials alerted the government about the backlog of cases it was inheriting as it replaced four appeal boards with a single tribunal. …

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