The opposition in Ottawa is accusing the Harper government of invading the privacy of Canadians receiving employment insurance.
Ottawa has launched a widespread review of the EI program. Bureaucrats have been combing through the files of 1,200 EI claimants chosen at random. Inspectors have been visiting the homes of these people and calling them in for interviews to discuss their claims.
Last week, CBC News obtained a 23-page list of questions inspectors have been told to ask. Most of the questions involve the claimant’s employment history and reasons why they are not working. But the inspectors are also instructed to speak to the claimants’ last employers, request claimants’ banking information if necessary and – in the case of people claiming parental leave – that they verify the identity of the claimant’s children.
"If the census, which was written and anonymous, was judged too intrusive by the Conservatives, how do they justify this kind of invasion of privacy? " NDP Leader Tom Mulcair asked as he led off Question Period on Monday.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley defended the government and its EI review.
"Service Canada has a responsibility to find and stop inappropriate claims and to protect the funds that Canadians have paid in the system," Finley said.
"Last year, the employment insurance program lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to inadmissible claims."
Opposition parties weren’t moved by the government's arguments.
Liberal Human Resources critic Rodger Cuzner called the review an attack on the unemployed.
The government’s tactics, he says, have changed "from legitimate investigation to deliberate intimidation."