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Federal EI amendments encourage job seekers to enhance skills • Ontario WSIB streamlines worker retraining program • CRA audits find $7.4 billion owed by businesses in 2008-2009: Report

Federal EI amendments encourage job seekers to enhance skills

OTTAWA — Employment Insurance Regulation SOR/2009-130 is the government's effort to motivate workers towards re-employability through retraining. Under the amendments, claimants who have, at their own expense, pursued retraining in a program deemed eligible under the Employment Insurance Act will receive their regular employment insurance (EI) benefits earlier than claimants who have not attempted retraining. These early benefits recipients would be entitled to their EI payments beginning the first week of the layoff or separation. Prior to the amendments, all EI claimants were eligible to receive their benefits at this time.

Additional amendments extend the EI benefit period by up to 12 weeks, also for claimants who undertake retraining in an eligible program. The extension is meant to pay claimants during the job search period — one week for every five weeks of completed eligible training for up to 12 weeks.

Ontario WSIB streamlines worker retraining program

TORONTO — The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is replacing a worker retraining program with a new, streamlined program that will pay more attention to cost and potentially save the board millions.

The board’s Labour Market Re-Entry program paid for new skills training to help injured, low-skilled workers find jobs. However, the program did not have a high success rate, with barely one-half of participants finding jobs after their training was completed.

In 1998, the WSIB began outsourcing the program to private claims management firms, who did the assessing of the workers and found training for them, for $80 to $90 an hour. However, the heavy reliance on private training instead of using the public education system resulted in sky-high costs. Injured workers reportedly had little say over where they went for training.

The program also paid high prices for training as a result of the outsourced firms sending the injured workers to for-profit schools that weren’t the most cost-effective option, often for jobs that were relatively low-paying. One school charged the program $33,000 for training as a data entry clerk and stockperson — a position that paid about $11 per hour — but the worker still didn’t find a job. Another worker who had a high school diploma was sent by a claims management firm to months of basic math and language training on the WSIB’s dime.

The WSIB’s new program, called the Work Reintegration Program, is expected to be up and running by the end of 2010. In addition to having WSIB staff back administering the program and using more public education options, the WSIB expects to reduce costs by pushing employers to accommodate injured workers more often.

CRA audits find $7.4 billion owed by businesses in 2008-2009: Report

OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) uses a variety of tools and methods to identify non-compliance and take action to address tax cheating, as well as to correct honest mistakes. The organization’s annual report for the 2008-2009 fiscal year revealed the results of its efforts to preserve the integrity of the tax system. According to the report, in 2008-2009, the CRA:

•obtained more than 787,000 tax returns from individuals and corporations who had failed to file, which resulted in a fiscal impact of more than $2.3 billion

•Conducted close to 374,000 audit and review actions, including 12,800 underground economy audits, and close to 1,200 audits of taxpayers suspected of earning income from illegal activities

•Detected almost $1.4 billion of unreported income for small- and medium sized businesses

•Audit programs detected a fiscal impact of $5.2 billion identified through international and large business audits, and $2.2 billion resulting from audits and examinations of small- and medium-sized businesses (includes the fiscal impact of the $1.4 billion of unreported income)

•Reviewed the books and records of 4,371 businesses to ensure they were properly maintained

•Identified more than 17,000 participants claiming donations of $484 million in tax shelter arrangements

•started legal actions that resulted in the conviction of more than 1,100 taxpayers who failed to file their income tax returns

•resolved more than $17 billion of debt through various collection activities at Tax Services Offices.

In 2008-2009, CRA referrals of criminal investigations to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada resulted in:

•Courts across Canada imposing fines of close to $29.2 million and offenders sentenced to more than 81 years in prison.

•Convictions in 323 cases for tax evasion or fraud and convictions obtained in 98 per cent of cases prosecuted.

The CRA’s annual report is a comprehensive report on the performance and acheivement of the CRA for the previous fiscal. It also assesses the fairness and reliability of the information contained in the report, and an audit of the agency and administered financial statements, by the Auditor General of Canada.

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