Our government's top priority is job creation, economic growth - and getting Canadians back to work.
It is unfortunate that members of the Opposition and big unions are focused on fear-mongering and exaggeration as opposed to what matters to Canadians. Perhaps they should carefully review the facts.
When it comes to EI, our annual service standard is to process 80 per cent of applications within 28 days. We are currently averaging 23 days for speed of the first payment. We are actually exceeding our target for the majority of Canadians.
On an annual basis, we are approximately three per cent below our service standard, which is relatively normal. Depending on the job market and other factors during the year, there will be fluctuations in the number of EI applications we receive, which affects our scores. Most interesting though is that in the month that we announced we will be overhauling and improving EI processing to better serve Canadians - before any changes were introduced - productivity and performance went from being on par with last year's performance at this time, to the worst in five years.
In terms of staffing, a number of temporary contracts were not renewed this summer. However, for the record, no full-time Service Canada employees have been laid off from EI processing or EI call centres in relation to the modernization efforts announced this summer.
We know that EI is an important, temporary support for Canadians. We monitor our processing carefully and regularly review the entire system to ensure we are best serving Canadians. We also place emphasis on providing the skills and training they need to get them back to work.
It is indeed unfortunate that union leaders - who are clearly very convincing to the members of the Opposition - are selfishly attempting to ensure that the old, costly, ineffective and labour-intensive methods for processing EI remain in place.
We will not allow these tactics to interfere with our efforts to improve EI processing for Canadians. We will ensure access to benefits when Canadians need them most. At the same time, we will continue to pursue what matters to Canadians by creating jobs, growing the economy and returning this country to balanced budgets.
minister of human resources and skills development