Auditor General Report confirms CPP disability tribunal isn’t performing

Most people who work in Canada pay into social program schemes, some of which are designed to act as a safeguard against the loss of income.  Employment Insurance is one of those programs and CPP, which most people know as a pension scheme, is another.  That’s because CPP processes disability claims which are a much needed source of income for Canadians who are dealing with a change in their ability to work due to severe and prolonged disabilities often related to illness or accident.

Changes to the way the program processed applications that were instituted in 2012 by the Conservatives were among the issues reported on by the Auditor General (AG) this week.   The new process that was supposed to speed up decisions has done the opposite, according to AG, Michael Ferguson.  He stated that the Conservative’s new Social Security Tribunal of Canada actually slowed down the processing of claims by a significant length of time.

When the tribunal was rolled out it was touted as the fix for a backlog.  Over time it became apparent that the tribunal was not working.  It had become a landing spot for individuals with close ties to the Conservative party and it appeared the changes may have had more to do with patronage than performance.  What the AG report confirmed this week was that both the backlog and wait times for claims to be appealed have nearly doubled. 

Now, instead of anecdotal evidence that point to problems, we have solid and unflattering numbers.  The backlog has grown from 6,585 cases in 2012 to 10,871 by the end of 2014, while the wait time for an appeal decision has hit a mind-boggling 884 days.  Those decisions are supposed to be arrived at within 120 days according to the Department of Employment and Social Development's service standard.  It is clear that the Social Security Tribunal is not working.  Whether it was designed to operate in that manner is another question.

What should not be lost in the discussion are the Canadians who are caught up in the debacle.  When he delivered his report this week, Michael Ferguson said, "These are Canadian workers. These are people who have worked in the Canadian workforce and they made their contributions to the CPP, and this is one of the benefits that they expect to be there when they need it."

I have often suggested that Employment Insurance is evolving into a revenue tool and another form of taxation. It would appear that CPP disability is in danger of becoming that too.  It is up to the current government to prove that is not their plan and the only way to do that it is to deal with the delays and backlogs so that people who need help actually get it.