Firefighter sues Ottawa over EI surplus

Montreal-area man seeks $1,100 rebate from Employment Insurance overpayments, wants Canadians to join class-action suit
||Last Updated: 03/12/2004


Montreal-area firefighter has launched a class-action suit against the federal government.

Steven St-Jacques is suing Ottawa over its excessive Employment Insurance premiums that have built up a $40-billion surplus. In a suit filed recently in Federal Court, St-Jacques accused the federal government of violating the Employment Insurance Act by setting high premiums between 1997 and 2001.

According to a

Canadian Press

report, the suit alleges the government imposed premiums that were 140 per cent higher than necessary to cover the costs of the funding.

“The surplus accumulated in the Employment Insurance account since 1997 is disproportionate, illegitimate, illegal and unjustified,” the suit alleges. “This incorrect behaviour on the part of the defendant has been publicly denounced on a number of occasions in the House of Commons and in the auditor general’s annual reports.”

The court has not yet decided whether or not it will allow the suit to go ahead, but St-Jacques is calling on anyone who has contributed money into EI to join the class-action suit.

St-Jacques is seeking more than $1,100 plus interest out of nearly $3,200 he paid into the fund between 1997 and 2001.

The EI fund has a $40-billion surplus. Sheila Fraser, the auditor general, has said the fund needs no more than a $15-billion surplus.

Quebec unions lost a suit in November in which they argued the surplus belong to workers and employers who paid into the fund, But a judge ruled the government has the right to accumulate and spend the surpluses.

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