Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

EI fraud is no surprise, and should be stopped

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Much has been made recently in the Atlantic region about tightening of rules around qualifying for Employment Insurance benefits. But even those who feel the changes unfairly target areas of smaller population and few jobs would, for the most part, support an effort to see the system is not subject to fraudulent claims.

As some have already suggested, opposition politicians might be a bit too bent on semantics in charging that Service Canada investigators have been handed quotas in their hunt for fraudulent or ineligible EI claims.

Is Human Resources Minister Diane Finley hedging -- or trying to cover up -- her explanation that the figure of finding $485,000 each per year in unwarranted benefits is really a "target," or an "objective," as she phrased under fire from the opposition?

We don't know off-hand how many investigators are on this task. But perhaps an average of nearly a half-million dollars for each is a reasonable estimate of the fraudulent claims we can expect in the system. For anyone who has been in the workforce any length of time, and perhaps had to look hard for work, and maybe made some observations along the way, it won't be a shock that fraud does occur in this sprawling, huge system of premiums and benefits -- alongside unemployment rates that range from about six to 10 per cent depending on the province.

And for those hardworking stiffs: definitely, find those who aren't entitled. We expect that.

Canadians want a fair EI system -- and, granted, some will argue new rules are too stringent in some instances. But shake loose as much as possible those hitching a free ride.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2013 A15

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