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April 27th, 2022 - Question Period with Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Hon. Karina Gould

Benefits Delivery Modernization

Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Thank you, minister, for being with us today.

Last year, the federal budget included $648 million over seven years to upgrade Service Canada’s information technology system to modernize the delivery of benefits, such as Employment Insurance. At the time, your colleague Minister Qualtrough stated that the IT system needed to be upgraded before major changes to the IT system could take effect. As you know, she’s still consulting on those changes.

As the minister responsible for Service Canada, could you tell us the following: What is the current status of the work to upgrade Service Canada’s IT system to modernize EI delivery, how much of the $648 million over the seven years that was allocated in Budget 2021 for benefit delivery modernization has been expended to date and when is that work scheduled to be completed?

Hon. Karina Gould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: That is an excellent question; it is one that is incredibly important.

The sad joke at Service Canada is that the Old Age Security system is almost eligible for OAS itself. There have been decades of underinvestment by successive governments, and it is extraordinarily important that we make these important investments in modernizing the system.

I can tell you that work is already under way. It is important for us to build out the system before we can put EI on it. As you mentioned, Minister Qualtrough is very much engaged in that consultation process. We have one of the most complicated employment insurance programs in the world. There is a need to modernize and streamline it while we are, at the same time, modernizing our IT systems to meet the needs and demands of citizens in the 21st century.

So work is already under way in that process. I will have to get back to you with the specific number in terms of how much of that money has already been spent, but my office can follow up with you on that question. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired. I’m sure all senators would like to join me in thanking Minister Gould for being with us today. Thank you, minister. We look forward to seeing you again.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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