SCC rules that case on EI contributions "bound to fail"

Arguments fail to convince the Supreme Court of Canada to rule in favour of contributors to employment insurance.

Ottawa (21 July 2014) —When the federal government used the surplus of Employment Insurance contributions to reduce the deficit, workers across the country were outraged. 

"That money belongs to the people who have diligently paid their Employment Insurance premiums throughout their lives," said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Publicand General Employees (NUPGE). "When the government used the funds like their own private trust fund, it was an act of betrayal for workers."

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Quebec’s second-largest trade union, with more than 300,000 members, and Lee Syndicat National des Employés de l’Aluminium brought the case to the Supreme Court, alleging that the funds were not being used for their designed purpose. But in 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that the government was within its "taxation power" to determine how to use the surplus. 

Conservative government closed old EI account, transfering money into general revenues

In 2010, the Conservative government decided to close the old employement insurance account and transfer the $57 billion balance into the government's general revenue. 

The move prompted the Confédération des syndicats nationaux and Federation des travailleurs et travailleuses du Quebec to bring the issue back to court. The lower court originally sided with the federal government saying that the money belonged to the government, not to EI contributors, but the Québec Court of Appeal overturned that ruling. The government appealed to the Supreme Court. 

In a 7-0 ruling today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the case would not proceed because it was "bound to fail."

The ruling stated, "Although the proper administration of justice requires that the courts' resources not be expended on actions that are bound to fail, the cardinal principle of access to justice requires that the power be used sparingly, where it is clear that an action has no reasonable chance of success."

The SCC ruled that the federal government actions had already been dealt with in the 2008 Supreme Court decision. 

More and more Canadians do not qualify for EI or are receiving reduced benefits

"Meanwhile, Canadians are finding it harder and harder to even access Employment Insurance," says Clancy. "We have people not having enough hours to qualify, being forced to move in order to accept jobs, and receiving much lower benefits than ever before. We need to revamp the EI system to ensure it is making a difference for those who desperately need it."


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE




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