Stephen Harper defends EI house calls amid union ‘safety’ fears

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Ottawa is cracking-down on employment insurance fraud.

As explained by CBC News earlier this week, representatives from Human Resources Development Canada will audit 1,200 employment insurance recipients at their homes or as part of their regular interviews to ensure that they really qualify for EI.

On Thursday, prime minister Harper defended the practice.

"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 told reporters according to the Canadian Press.

"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."

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While there's no exact figure of employment insurance fraud in Canada, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley recently told Sun News, that last year her department was able to stop $530 million in ineligible payments.

Regardless, the upcoming audits have irked unions and the opposition NDP.

NDP MP Yves Godin told the Canadian Press that this isn't the time for the government to go to peoples' houses because a lot of them are upset about the new EI rules which change the definitions of "suitable employment" and "a reasonable job search."

"I wouldn't recommend for representatives of the government to go knocking on doors right now. It’s dangerous," Godin said.

A federal union representative concurred.

"The level of aggressiveness is rising and I'm worried about the safety of the members I represent," Nathalie Paulin said according to CBC News.

"We understand people's distress. We feel it too."

Dangerous? Fear of their personal safety?

With that logic, the Senate shouldn't audit the expenses of Mike Duffy or Pamela Wallin because that might make them angry.

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Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation believes the union argument is a bunch of "malarkey."

"The union representing federal government employees is making its members look ridiculous by suggesting that it’s dangerous to make house calls. Tens of thousands of Canadians make house calls for work, whether it’s in sales, deliveries, repairs or whatever. The idea that government employees are putting their safety at risk doing the same thing is just laughable. The union reps need to get over themselves. They aren’t doing their cause any good," he wrote in an email exchange with Yahoo! Canada News.

"The government is finally doing what it should have been doing all along, some routine due-diligence over the $21 billion in EI taxes it collects from hard-working Canadians. Some people seem to feel they’re entitled to other peoples’ money 38 weeks a year because they work for 14 weeks a year, without any accountability whatsoever.

"The rest of us are tired of getting scammed."

(Photo courtesy of Canadian Press)

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