Ottawa freezes EI data
The Conservative government has cut off the flow of some key employment data to the public just as it is about to present new, stricter rules on Employment Insurance.
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley is set to announce details Thursday morning that will alter the landscape for those collecting EI, with particular emphasis on repeat claimants.
At the same time, Finley's department has stopped sending Statistics Canada key and current information about how much federal money is flowing to each of the provinces for EI claimants, The Canadian Press has learned.
Three tables normally produced with Statistics Canada's monthly EI summary are now "frozen," according to the agency website.
"Data are not available to users," a note says for the tables that normally show the total dollar amount of benefits paid to each province and the average weekly payments by province.
A spokesman for Statistics Canada said some inconsistencies in the Human Resources raw data were discovered over a year ago, and no one has found a way to resolve the issue.
An internal agency note obtained by The Canadian Press said that despite the inconsistencies, the agency was still able to produce aggregates over the past year. But as of May 2012, the agency no longer has enough data from Human Resources to continue.
Reports about the number EI recipients are still available.
Demand for information about EI is running high right now due to the government's slow strip tease on changes to the program.
The Harper government first said in the spring 2012 budget that it would "clarify" who can continue to receive benefits, taking aim at people with a long history of claiming EI benefits.
The government then included measures in the omnibus budget implementation bill to overhaul key conditions for EI claimants, but did not provide much information about how the new rules would work.
For weeks, firm details have been sparse, often contradictory and always controversial, prompting an outcry from some Atlantic premiers, opposition critics and organized labour.
The opposition NDP says that between the mixed messages coming from the government on EI reforms and cutting off EI costing data, transparency in policy making has disappeared.
"Transparency has not been their strong suit here," said MP Peggy Nash. "It's not been a good process."