Government on hot seat about dying Alberta man denied CPP disability benefits | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Government on hot seat about dying Alberta man denied CPP disability benefits

Employment and Social Development Minister Pierre Poilievre makes his way to Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday February 26, 2015 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
February 26, 2015 - 3:13 PM

OTTAWA - The head of the federal government's backlogged social security tribunal has reached out to a terminally ill Alberta man who was denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits to assure him that his appeal will be expedited.

Peter McClure, 62, is suffering from lung and rectal cancer and has outlived his doctor's prognosis. He was told by Service Canada 18 months ago that his condition wasn't severe or prolonged enough to qualify for CPP disability.

The tribunal, which had not replied to McClure's request for an expedited hearing, confirmed Thursday that chairwoman Murielle Brazeau contacted him directly to tell him his appeal would be accelerated.

The development came as the federal government found itself on the hot seat Thursday in the House of Commons over McClure's plight.

"Where is this government's compassion for Canadians like Peter McClure?" NDP MP Jinny Sims asked during the daily question period.

Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre called cases like McClure's "difficult" and described current wait times as unacceptably long.

But he said the government is on track to slash the 11,000-case backlog — mostly involving CPP disability cases — as departmental experts plow through cases involving sick and injured Canadians, some of whom have waited years for their appeals to be heard.

"The fact is we have a plan in place now to address the backlog by using specialists within the department in order to resolve as many of the outstanding appeals as humanly possible," Poilievre said.

The specialists are poring over every case that's under appeal, he added, searching for speedy resolutions that in some cases would absolve some appellants from having to appear before the tribunal at all.

The group of experts is referred to as the spike unit.

The government couldn't immediately provide numbers on how many appeals the unit has dealt with in the past few weeks, since former employment minister Jason Kenney promised to eliminate the backlog by summer.

Nor could it say how many have been successful in their appeals under what Poilievre dubbed the "common-sense action plan" to deal with the backlog.

McClure, meantime, was also contacted by Health Minister Rona Ambrose's office on Thursday. The former fitness instructor's community of Spruce Grove is in Ambrose's riding, and officials in her constituency office plan to update him Friday on their queries into his ordeal.

The social security tribunal was created by the Conservatives in April 2013 to streamline the appeals process and save Canadian taxpayers $25 million a year.

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter @leeanne25

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said it was the tribunal that told McClure he didn't qualify for disability payments.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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