Stop house calls for EI recipients: union

The Canadian Press
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House calls needed to root out fraudsters: Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

OTTAWA — The union representing federal employees is asking the government to stop sending its workers for unannounced visits at the home of employment insurance recipients.

The union says it fears for the safety of its employees, given the level of public anger over changes to the EI system that could affect seasonal workers.

“We’re putting employees in situations that are very dangerous,” Larry Rousseau, a spokesman for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said Thursday.

He spoke following a report by The Canadian Press 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.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the house calls when asked about them Thursday.

“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.

“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." Prime Minister Stephen Harper

“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.”

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.

“We’ve been hearing from (civil servants) who have gone to houses ... and they’ve been badly received,” Rousseau said.

“What will it take — an untoward or unfortunate incident (for these visits to stop)? Why do we have to test the limits of people’s patience like this?”

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.

Organizations: EI house, Human Resources Development Canada

Geographic location: SASKATOON

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Recent comments

  • Brian
    February 23, 2013 - 14:24

    I can't believe I'm reading this, or the comments on it. If it isn't enough that the Federal government collects and stores vast amounts of information on Canadian citizens, now it makes house calls. People actually have the audacity to defend a complete erosion of democracy. Is it stupidity, apathy, a lack of empathy for one's fellow man ? Saying " if you have nothing to hide, what's the problem ? " is pathetically stupid. What's next ? Home checks to see if we are eating and living right to qualify for medicare ? Some of these armchair commentators should walk the EI line for a bit if they don't give a crap about their fellow man and see how it feels on a personal level. Everyone collecting EI has two weeks shaved off their benifits for no good reason. Everyone has to under go unreasonable delays. Yes there is work out there. There is not always work out there, and certainly not for everyone all of the time. How about spending some of the money wasted on bureaucracy on child care to make it feasible for people with children to actually work one of the many low paying, low benefit jobs out there ? Why not re-route some of the government waste towards actually useful public transportation to and from work places ? Making it almost impossible for honest people to collect, spending more than is actually paid out in some cases for auditing then reautiting for a paranoid Federal government, because some people cheat defeats the whole system. The Federal government is saying, some people cheat so we are going to measure out collective punishment to everyone, and people are good with this ?

    February 23, 2013 - 09:28

    In the near future all Canadians will greet each other by raising their stiff right arm and extending their middle finger while saying loud enough for others to hear...Heil Harper!Remember to make your salute audible or you may get a visit from the E.I. Gestapo, a small detail but enough to land one in trouble perhaps even sent to the Northern parts of our country for the winter.

  • Lost Cause
    February 23, 2013 - 08:01

    Never equate politicians as advocates for the people. Just review the situation in Kings County: -The shipyard is closed. -The lumberyard is closed. -Fish processors are closed while flying in foreign workers. -Hospitals are down grading including adding stress to those who seek dyalisis. -A riding who fired an MLA only to have him hired as a civil servant and everyone else fired in that area....(Souris) -A senator who caims to be one of us, yet....... Mr. Harper! As in charity given, I would rather give out 10 times wrong than deny the one who truly needs it. Parents, be truthful......teach your children, PEI is a lost cause! Politicians are not of the people. Prepare/educate them to leave for better prosperity off this this god-forsaken sand dune. And to have empathy for those left behind. Be something more human than these robo-callers.

  • disgusted islander
    February 23, 2013 - 05:46

    i work my but off 9 months of the year. There is no road construction or any construction in the winter months on P.E.I. Service Canada has called me twice asking how and where i have been looking for work, The Harper goverment wants to take ei from people who abuse the system, why not start with the people who go out west for 3 months in the winter. Then return home to draw pogy for the other 9 months, when there is many many jobs in the fishing industry and tourism they could be doing,

  • SG
    February 22, 2013 - 20:02

    The Federal Governments's unannounced House Calls to EI Recipients is the Last Straw for me! The present PC Gov. will NEVER receive my Vote.The Majority of EI Recipient cheques would not feed two people for a month! I"m also tired of the unending Criticism of Maritimers every time there is a Report on EI. The highest number of EI Recipients live in Quebec not the Maritimes. Should the Maritimes shut down their Fisheries, Farming and Tourism Industries because they are Seasonal? Apparently the majority of Canadians don't know that more than the Majority of Maritimers work FULL TIME. In fact many Maritimers due to Lay Offs are now working in the West! I've never had to depend on EI thankfully. But anyone who needs my EI Contributions are more han welcome to use them! Mike Duffy being the only exception.

    • good post
      February 23, 2013 - 12:12

      Excellent post. agree that most EI payments would not feed two people for one week, yet Harper's Gestapo will come goosestepping up to the door to see for themselves. What a vile government we have here.

    • David
      February 24, 2013 - 15:23

      It's not a PC government the Progressive Conservatives are gone it's a completely different political party whose official name is the "Conservative Party of Canada". It's 50% PC and 50% Reform Party but if you ask me it's 99% Reform Party going by the recent far-right ideas and polices.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    February 22, 2013 - 17:20

    It's nazi Germany all over again. Socialism, fascism has made way for the new form of socialist agendas called collectivism. We are all slaves, but the new slavery is called "INDEBTED SERVITUDE". COME ON PEOPLE WAKE UP.

    February 22, 2013 - 17:12

    I worked for close to 35 years and never used or though I would have to use EI. I retired with a pension and an rrsp. A few years ago the investment lost considerable value in the crash in the market and now I find myself a seasonal worker who now has to use this insurance fund to make ends meet. I am seeking work but in my region there are few jobs for a 60+ year old man. Now that I need EI they are trying to take it away from us.

  • bitter islander
    February 22, 2013 - 17:01

    pei is doomed.... harper is making it impossible to survive on ei with no work here to get... yet he is cutting federal jobs to the bone and ghiz is doing tthe same provincialy.... the biggetst abuser of ei is the federal government they stole more money out of the ei fund in a couple of years than all the people in the country that they think abuse ei since ei started .... i just hope we can weather this thing i call a perfect storm of harper and ghiz untill next election ....oh and i hardly ever used ei and for the extremly small amount they take off my check i dont mind and the commentors on here that do mind you are just as greedy as any fat cat in politics you just might find yourself needing ei someday then maybe then your views might change on this issue ....EI IS NOT A GREEDY GOVERNMENT SLUSH FUND SO STOP TREATING IT AS SUCH leave it alone ottowa

  • darrell
    February 22, 2013 - 16:12

    i think harper should get rid of two week waiting period thats the problem

  • Patrick
    February 22, 2013 - 14:12

    Harper should start cleaning out the waste both in flesh and dollars from the wasteful senate throw away those troufs that the wasteful senators who had their face into for too long now,clean your own closet before condemning mine...And with Harper so scared of people frauding the EI system that would only be a drop in the bucket compare to all the so called useless senate wasteful spending,go and look where Duffy and Wallin and the rest of the money spenders are hanging their hat these days...what a joke.

  • Just saying
    February 22, 2013 - 13:02

    While I too would be concerned for the safety of workers asked to make the unannounced visits I have to say I fully understand why the government is pursuing this issue. There have been far too many abuses of the EI system for too many years and we all know it. If someone is getting EI and are doing so legitimately then what’s the big deal, they have nothing to hide. I don’t see the assessment to be much different than been audited at tax time. While there may be some dishonest people in political positions (which admittedly is wrong and I am in no way condoning this) it does not excuse the deceitful practices of would perhaps make them 'cut from the same cloth’. At what point did ‘two wrongs make it right’ become the acceptable practice?

      February 22, 2013 - 18:06

      OK, so the honest people have nothing to hide, what's the big deal? This is insurance people have paid into. So, let's say you have your car broken into and stuff stolen from it. You put your insurance claim in. The insurance company sends investigators out to talk to your neighbours about whether you may be a crook. What's the big deal? They call your employer and ask whether they know if you are in financial trouble. What's the big deal? They stop your kids on the way to school and ask whether Daddy really had that stuff in his car. What's the big deal? If you are honest, why would you complain? I can imagine how you would respond if this were you!!!

  • Get the facts
    February 22, 2013 - 12:47

    With a growing number of people heading west to work seasonal employers have already been importing workers from Mexico and Asia to fill positions . That money is leaving the country never to return .Sure there are few a fraudulent claims ,but at least this money goes back into the Canadian economy. I don't know many e.i. claimants hoarding money in off shore banks.

  • times have changed
    February 22, 2013 - 12:42

    The Harper regime this ,and the Harper ideology etc, all terms from the outdated liberal handbook of fear mongering.............there is abuse and the liberals and the socialists what to turn a blind eye...................when are you going to learn that the political climate has changed..... that Liberal entitlement is now gone ..except in your minds.........

  • Inquisition
    February 22, 2013 - 12:39

    There was the Spanish Inquisition and now the Harper Inquisition . Clean up the corruption you created in Ottawa ( your own cabinet and senate appointments )before attacking the defenseless citizens .

  • Resident
    February 22, 2013 - 12:14

    We’re putting employees in situations that are very dangerous... You can say this about mail man too... Another union joke?

  • Sam
    February 22, 2013 - 12:09

    What happened to the "51 Billion" surplus in EI back in 2009?

    • chris
      February 22, 2013 - 14:37

      Harper stole and spent it shortly after getting elected. seriously.

  • big jim
    February 22, 2013 - 11:42

    they way i look at it if you think youcan do better than the politicians . go run for office

  • Just saying
    February 22, 2013 - 11:39

    While I too would be concerned for the safety of workers asked to make the unannounced visits I have to say I fully understand why the government is pursuing this issue. There have been far too many abuses of the EI system for too many years and we all know it. If someone is getting EI and are doing so legitimately then what’s the big deal, they have nothing to hide. I don’t see the assessment to be much different than been audited at tax time. While there may be some dishonest people in political positions (which admittedly is wrong and I am in no way condoning this) it does not excuse the deceitful practices of would perhaps make them 'cut from the same cloth’. At what point did ‘two wrongs make it right’ become the acceptable practice?

  • Just Wondering
    February 22, 2013 - 11:15

    I have to wonder about the EI program.I heard a burb on the news this morning about this topic and it stated the tax payers dollars.....Correct me if I am wrong ,the working person and their employer are the ones that keep this program going.You know it;s been many many years sicne I had to use the program ,If Harper doesn't want to have people using this program stop taking the EI deductions off our pay cheques.

    • jacinta
      February 22, 2013 - 11:27

      The government does not pay in anymore and contrary to popular belief 40% of EI recipients come from the province of Quebec.

    • something to hide
      February 22, 2013 - 12:04

      Well if we stop deducting EI then there will be no money in the pool for these people to get, so thats a ridiculous solution. I have no problem with these visits, we all know somebody or multiple people who are scamming the system, this frusterates me as I've never taken EI and its almost like I'm paying them to lie on their couch. Do the people on EI have something to hide? Otherwise there shouldn't be anything wrong with answering a couple of questions to a civil servant at your door.

  • Gerry
    February 22, 2013 - 10:56

    Lead by example. House clean the senate first, then move onto all the other politicians who rip off the taxpayers. Then, and only then, will we have a modicum of faith in government.

  • Jim
    February 22, 2013 - 10:52

    Before the littany of comments about how this is workers' money paid for by EI payments when peple are working and so they earned it, let's remember that the maximum amount of EI contributions deducted from pay cheques now totals just over $800/yr. That's just two weeks of EI claims for someone who qualifies for the full EI amount. Anyhone who routinely works seasonally and then relies on EI for several months a year never has the moral high ground of claiming they earned EI through deductions when they were working. They never even come close. It's subsidized labour for a seasonal industry. Whether it should be allowed or not aside, let's at least be honest about where the money comes from - the vast majority of Canadian workers who never or seldomly file a claim and treat EI as what it is - an insurance policy in the event something goes drastically wrong.

    • Their Shoes
      February 22, 2013 - 12:11

      Jim, while I agree that people pay very little for the opportunity to collect EI, it would seem to me that you have never been to the Eastern or Western tip of PEI. I grew up in Western PEI and have have lots of family and friends who remain there. Getting a job in the "off season" is next to impossible for most of these people because the only jobs out there in the winter months are actually year round jobs and those positions don't get vacated very often. For these people to take a minimum wage job at some retail store or fast food place would have them paying more for fuel and childcare in one week than they would actually make. I've been lucky to have never had to rely on EI but I like to think that what I pay into those benefits are helping my family and friends who have no choice but to rely on it.

    • Dan
      February 22, 2013 - 12:15

      100% agree with you Jim. Let's not let emotion cloud over the fact that there are people who take out a lot more than they put in while others who take out nothing or very little foot the bill. Insurance is not meant to be an investment with a positive return, if it was, it wouldn't be a private industry with large profits.

  • Harperism wrong
    February 22, 2013 - 10:39

    This hard right ideology of Harperism is an affront to democracy and justice. The use of Public Servants to intimidate unemployed workers is too close to what we fought against in World War Two. He must go, and people who support him should hold their heads in shame.

  • Unbelievable
    February 22, 2013 - 10:21

    This Harper regime is unbelievable. What we're going to see is another uprising against government, and its not going to be in foreign countries....its going to be right here at home. If I was a Service Canada worker, I would be telling them, they'd have to fire me....I would not go into someones home unannounced. Lord almighty what is Harper thinking, alright for him, he has his security guards where ever he goes. If you want your workers to do that, then perhaps you and your ministers should set the example. If Harper or Finlay wouldn't go themselves, don't ask your civil servants to do your dirty work for you!!

  • Thomas
    February 22, 2013 - 10:19

    If Harper wants to save money and we all know that that's at the root of the housecall crap. Take a pay cut and keep a closer eye on government waste. Maritimers are hard working , honest people yet they seem to be the target of this EI "reform".

  • waldorf
    February 22, 2013 - 10:09

    If harper is going to get workers to make house calls to weed out fraudsters start AT MIKE DUFFYS RESIDENTS AND OTHER HIGH PROFILE SENATORS