Service Canada cuts
An absurd choice is no choice for Canadians
The government says Canadians must choose between eliminating the deficit and having strong public services. We say that’s an absurd choice.
Eliminating the deficit might sound like a good idea, but not when that comes at the expense of public services Canadians need.
Service Canada cuts so far
- In January 2011 the government announced it was closing five Service Canada offices in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and 13 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- The government announced in the 2011 Federal Budget that in order to help eliminate the deficit, it would cut $276 million from Service Canada spending by March 2013.
- On August 19, 2011, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced that the number of Canada Service Centres that process Employment Insurance claims would be cut from 120 to 19.
- The government says it will announce more cuts – up to an additional 10 per cent of total spending – in the 2012 budget.
What these cuts mean for people
Every Canadian uses Service Canada. It’s where we all go for services like renewing passports, or applying for maternity, pension or unemployment benefits. According to the Service Canada web site, it’s as easy as a click, call or visit “for easy access.”
But lately a lot of Canadians have found access anything but easy. This has been especially devastating for the most vulnerable – the unemployed and seniors who rely on benefits just to get by.
- Cuts to EI processing centres and service agents continue even as the unemployment rate increases – up to 7.3 per cent nationally in October.
- The government says that automation and modernization will improve service but many say service is much worse.
- The government’s own call data shows that in the last five years, the number of Canadians able to reach service agents on the phone to discuss their EI claims fell from 58 to 32 per cent.
- Many say when they finally do get through to a live agent, they are told they have to wait for someone to call back with the information they need. Call-back timelines have been increased from two to five days because staff is so busy – but even those goals are hard to reach.
- Service Canada employees also say they can rarely meet the 28-day goal in which claimants are supposed to hear whether they qualify for payment.
- Workers say they are now dealing with “dire straits” cases much more often – these are cases of people who need their cheques quickly to cover basic needs like rent and food.
- Call centre staff were told not to give out the toll-free number for a complaints centre set up to help with overdue claims unless clients asked for it by name. “How are they supposed to ask for something they don’t even know exists?” asks Steve McCuaig, the National Vice-President of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (Those toll-free numbers are available here, in case you need them).
- Rural communities, where unemployment rates tend to be higher, are especially hard hit by the so-called modernization. “We have one person in St. Alban’s providing an important service for a number of people about 20 days a month and Service Canada is saying they’re going to improve the service by having trained professionals visit the area just two days a month? I’m not buying that at all,” Mayor Rodney Kendall of St. Alban’s, Newfoundland told one community paper.
- “The government website cheerily recommends you may “click, call or visit” but soon you will only be able to click or call,” says PSAC’s Atlantic Regional Executive Vice-President, Jeannie Baldwin. “In Newfoundland and Labrador, the “visit” will be limited to the main office in St. John’s or the sparsely staffed Gander Service Centre. Gander is about seven hundred kilometers from St. Anthony and a lot farther from Nain or Labrador City. It may not be modern to sit across a desk from someone who is helping you with your employment insurance forms, but it is service.”
- Many former EI workers are now forced to collect EI themselves. The thousands of temporary workers hired to meet increased demand during the recession that began in 2008 have been let go. “The problem is that automation is not making up for the work they did, and we now have fewer people processing claims than before the recession started, said CEIU’s McCuaig. “And what’s scary, is that the unemployment rate is rising, and there are more cuts to come.”
- The so-called “modernization” isn’t working for seniors either. In the last week of September alone, half of the people calling about the Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Security couldn’t get past a busy signal.
- The cuts mean more dependency on the web site, leaving those who don’t have or use technology without access. Many people can’t afford or don’t know how to use computers and internet access, and in rural areas have very limited broadband access.
Ask for something better
More cuts are coming. They mean cuts to services Canadians need. They also mean more people being forced out of work. Those job losses are going to hurt families, local businesses, communities and their economies.
If you want a better way forward, let us know here.
Want to know more? Just Google “Service Canada cuts” and you’ll find stories from all across the country about the impact of the cuts. Here’s some of what we found:
“Overworked EI call centre staff at odds with boss’ claims,” Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, November 16, 2011.
Government job cuts mean jobless waiting weeks for EI cheques,” Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, November 9, 2011.
“Service Canada employees told to keep mum on complaints office,” Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, November 9, 2011.
“NDP unveil ‘shocking’ stats that reveal EI service delays,” Tobi Cohen, Post Media News, October 26, 2011.
“Saving of EI centres in Tory ridings draws fire,” Michael Tutton, Globe and Mail, October 26, 2011.
« Assurance emploi: la FTQ part en guerre » Carl Thériault, Le Soleil, 23 septembre 2011
« Emplois fédéraux – La FTQ entend freiner Ottawa» Vive le Québec, 21 septembre 2011
“Service Canada job cuts assailed,” Dave Battagello, Windsor Star, September 10, 2011.
« New Richmond: une quarantaine d'emplois à sauver » Gille Gagné, Le Soleil, 3 septembre 2011
« Bas-St-Laurent: coupes chez Hydro-Québec et Services Canada »
Carl Thériault Le Soleil, 29 août 2011
“A different view on the same EI changes,” Op-ed by Jeannie Baldwin, Regional Executive Vice-President for the Atlantic, Public Service Alliance of Canada, The Telegram, August 19, 2011.
«Services Canada: l'Atlantique unilingue» écrit Guillaume Bourgault-Côté dans Le Devoir du 11 mars 2011.
« Bureaux locaux de Service Canada, La sénatrice Chaput s'inquiète de fermetures possibles » Paul Gaboury, Le Droit, 4 février 2011
“Liberals slam cuts to Service Canada in rural communities,” news release, February 3, 2011.
“Modernizing Employment Insurance Delivery to Canadians,” News Release, Government of Canada, August 19, 2011.
“Service Canada community offices being closed: Ottawa slaps rural Newfoundland in face again,” Clayton Hunt, The Coaster, February 15, 2011.
Date Modified : 2011/12/02