Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Spent $2.2 Million in Legal Fees for Maternity, Sickness Benefits Lawsuit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ottawa Spent $2.2 Million in Legal Fees for Maternity, Sickness Benefits Lawsuit

Article excerpt

EI lawsuit cost feds $2.2 million: documents

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OTTAWA - The legal bill to fight a group of mothers who say they were wrongfully denied sickness benefits continues to rise as the woman at the centre of the battle waits for the Liberals to follow through on a campaign pledge to end the fight.

Newly released figures show the federal government has spent more than $2.2 million in legal fees fighting Calgary mother Jennifer McCrea and thousands of other Canadians who are involved in a class-action lawsuit over being denied sickness benefits while they were on maternity leave.

Most of that -- $2.06 million -- has been through the federal Justice Department with a further $176,377 estimated to have been spent at Employment and Social Development Canada.

The figures are contained in documents tabled in Parliament last week in response to a request from New Democrat MP Niki Ashton and show the government added about $1 million to the overall legal bill for the case in the last year.

"It's very upsetting that this legal bill is at $2.2 million and that could have been...used to help out me as well as the other many, many women that could use that benefit that we are entitled to. It's extremely frustrating," McCrea said in a telephone interview from Calgary.

That frustration, she said, could be gone in an instant if the Liberals were to drop the legal challenge. The NDP promised to end the fight within six months during the campaign, with the Liberals telling the Toronto Star in early October that the party would "immediately end" the court battle.

McCrea said she hasn't heard anything from the Liberals about when they will follow through on the promise.

"Would we like to see more happening from them coming to talk to us or anything like that? Absolutely we would love to see more from them," said McCrea, 39.

The $450-million class-action lawsuit alleges the government failed to pay sickness benefits to women who became ill while on maternity leave even though the law said they were allowed it. …

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