Supposedly there are hundreds of millions of dollars being defrauded from the system. It will be impressive if 50 government workers going randomly to 1,200 homes across the country can ferret hundreds of millions of dollars of EI fraudsters. That alone should be worth a front-page story.
There is a secondary effect though that is troubling. It makes people worry about being audited, and that they might lose EI. We shouldn't let that happen. There is no shame in collecting EI if you have lost your job. The government knocking on your door to make sure you really do need EI shouldn't deter people from applying.
We should also be vigil in making sure the government is doing their job correctly. There is no shortage of cases where the government has made mistakes in the various departments, and people fighting to get what they deserve. We'll likely hear of those in the EI system as well.
To be fair, there most likely is fraud in the EI system. There might even be a few in Queens County doing it. Stopping those who are being dishonest about it is important.
The timing is a little off though. With the changes to EI making it tougher to collect and more stringent on requirements to keep collecting it, this latest announcement is going to touch a few nerves.
This is doubly so in Queens County. Our national park, which employed people full time, is now a seasonal employer. When the mill closed it put over 300 people out of work. Other smaller changes in the community probably means our county will have a higher percentage of our population collecting EI.
Going door to door essentially asking someone if they are committing fraud though is just an invitation for trouble. It's going to be seen as an accusation of guilt, whether it is intentional or not.
However stating the EI system is being defrauded hundreds of millions of dollars paints a guilty picture over every one who is collecting it. Putting it into perspective, the Canadian government spent around $23 billion in 2010 on EI claims. The fraudsters make up just a small percentage of that number.
It also begs the question how do they know? If the system is being defrauded that much, presumably they have some way to track it. That would mean a random selection of 1,200 people across the country is unnecessary.
Everything about the EI changes and enforcement makes people out to be guilty before proven innocent. It seems as though the government wants those of us working to tell those on EI to go get a job. However back in the reality of Queens County, all this will do is kick us while we are down.