Cullen calls out minister for misleading Parliament about EI changes

OTTAWA – MP Nathan Cullen rose on a point of privilege in Parliament yesterday to object that the minister responsible for Employment Insurance has misled the House of Commons on tough new measures aimed at reducing insurance benefit payouts.
“This is political spin at its worst,” Cullen said after the House of Commons adjourned.

Yesterday in Parliament, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley was forced to confirm Montreal media reports that Service Canada investigators have annual “performance objectives” of $485,000 for rooting out EI fraud.  Earlier this month, Finley denied that Service Canada investigators have new yearly quotas.

“To split hairs over whether there are ‘objectives’ or ‘quotas’ as bureaucrats are forced to chase down a half-million dollars in EI fraud every year would be laughable if it weren’t so ridiculous,” Cullen said.

He said treating EI recipients like criminals while ignoring concerns about alleged illegal expenses claimed by several Conservative Senate appointees shows just how out of touch the Harper government is with ordinary Canadians.

“The fact is that right now only 40 per cent of 1.4 million unemployed Canadian workers receive employment insurance benefits,” Cullen said.  He noted new EI eligibility rules will impact all jobless Canadians who apply for benefits, but will hit seasonal workers the hardest.

“Hardworking resource workers of Skeena-Bulkley Valley and right across Canada are facing frightening cutbacks to their rightful EI benefits while this government plays with words and protects its friends in the Senate,” Cullen charged.

The Harper government has faced questions about EI reform since new rules announced last May took effect early last month. The reforms included changes to the definition of what the government regards as a reasonable job search.

Parliamentary privilege protects MPs from legal liability for actions or statements made in the course of their legislative duties. It is common in countries whose constitutions are based on the Westminster model.

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