Welcome, Minister, and officials. Thank you all for joining us today to discuss the main estimates.
Minister, one of the most significant programs your department is responsible for, of course, is the employment insurance system. As a member of Parliament obviously I'm helping my constituents out from time to time with these issues. There is absolutely universal agreement that, thank God, Canada has such a program that helps people who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own and in fact helps parents and mothers, because we have maternity benefits and parental benefits.
I was just reading an article last week. There is a big debate now in the United States because they don't have maternal and parental benefits in their employment insurance or social security system. We have those great things in Canada.
I want to ask you a few things about our EI system. Obviously, Canadians pay into the EI system through payroll taxes and these premiums fund the administration of EI. Obviously their employers make a contribution to the EI system as well. It's a great social safety net program that we have and I think all political parties cherish the EI system and the important role it plays.
I understand that Service Canada recently brought on additional staff to assist in the processing of EI claims. As a result, can you confirm that Canadians can expect to have their EI claims processed within the 28-day service window? Service Canada's standard, I understand, is 80% of claims processed within 28 days. Are we currently meeting that standard? I can certainly tell you that in my office I'm getting very few constituents coming in indicating that they are having issues with the processing of their EI claims, which tells me that it must be working, because otherwise, they'd be in my office.
Can you give us an update on that? Where are we on the service standards, and where are we generally on the strength of this very important program for Canadians?