OTTAWA — The Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that serves the prime minister and cabinet, played a key role in designing a lengthy 15-month hiring process for members of the government’s backlogged social security tribunal.

An internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press says the process was approved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper six months before the tribunal launched.

Critics say the decision suggests the government paid no heed to those who would be forced to endure long delays as a result — a group that includes some of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens.

Thousands of terminally ill or injured Canadians, having been denied Canada Pension Plan disability benefits, have been waiting years for their appeals to be heard.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney has pointed the finger at the “rigorous pre-screening process” as one of the reasons for an 11,000-case backlog for social security appeals, mostly involving CPP disability benefits.

The tribunal says Kenney has since shortened the 15-month process originally put in place by the PCO for both full-time and part-time members.

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