I'd like to welcome our guest, the Honourable Carol Skelton, the Minister of National Revenue.
Minister, thank you for being here. Thank you to your associates.
Committee members, I know you'll be pleased to note the presence today of our report, “Canada: Competing to Win”. As you see, it is lovely not only in its appearance but in its content as well. I look forward to hearing comments from all of you as you peruse the work that you've done over the last number of months.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and section 89 of the Canada Revenue Agency Act, this is the first five-year statutory review of the act. I understand the minister has some opening comments, and then we'll move, of course, to questions from the members of the committee.
Welcome, and over to you, Carol.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee.
I would like to introduce the officials with me today. Mr. Michel Dorais is Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency. Also with me is Mr. William Baker.
I want to commend the leadership of the chair for undertaking this extremely important review. In the past ten months I have learned a lot about the mandate and the unique governance model of the Canada Revenue Agency.
Based on my experiences with the agency and my peripheral knowledge of the other government departments, I am quite confident in saying that CRA has been one of the most successful business transformations within the federal system. Since assuming this portfolio, I have witnessed the timely and efficient manner in which the agency implemented and now administers several important initiatives of Canada's new government. Notably, they include the 1% reduction in the GST and the universal child care benefit program. I would like to provide an overview of the unique features of the CRA Act that make this impressive track record possible.
Within the CRA Act, our agency was given a one-of-a-kind mandate. For example, the agency has independence and freedom from political interference. It has unparalleled powers that enable it to operate more like a business, bringing the strengths of both the public and private sectors together to improve services to Canadians. For instance, the act created an internal board of management, which ensures a more strategic, businesslike approach to running the agency. The board is responsible for overseeing the CRA's organization and administration and for managing its resources, services, property, and personal contracts. Its members bring both private sector skills and practices and a provincial perspective that strengthens the agency's administration overall. You will hear more of the CRA governance model next hour, when our chair presents.
As minister, I retain full responsibility and accountability to Parliament and to Canadians for the administration of tax and benefit legislation. I'm also responsible for the agency's activities under that legislation. The commissioner, the CRA's chief executive officer, is responsible for ensuring the day-to-day management of the agency under the board's direction and at my guidance.
A further improvement is strengthened accountability to Parliament, to reflect the special powers exercised by the agency, as well as strengthened accountability to the provincial, territorial, and first nations governments on whose behalf the CRA administers programs and services. The agency now reports annually to each of these provinces and territories.
Canadians can take pride in the confidence that provincial governments place in the CRA. For example, earlier this year, the agency delivered Alberta resource rebate payments to nearly three million Albertans. The Government of Alberta was very satisfied with the agency's service on this initiative, and other governments have noticed. We have recently signed an agreement with the Government of Ontario to begin administering Ontario's corporate tax, effective 2009. It is important, however, that CRA continues to be mindful of its need to balance services to clients with an open, cooperative, and fair approach to all taxpayers.
One of the questions I asked my officials when I assumed my role as minister was whether the agency was doing all it could to be an enabler to small and medium-sized businesses. Rather than continue with more than fifty advisory committees, I had officials focus on a results-based approach. I challenged the agency to find a way to reduce its paperwork burden on small and medium-sized businesses, so that these job creators can have more time to focus on what they do best, and that is to create jobs, not fill out forms. The result of my challenge was the establishment of the CRA-led action task force on small business task issues. This task force will recommend solutions and develop a framework to ensure that paperwork burden reduction becomes systemic within the agency. I look forward to receiving the task force's recommendations in the spring.
To be the best agency it can be, the CRA must maintain the integrity of the federal and provincial tax bases. It can best achieve this by building on the high levels of voluntary compliance within Canada's tax system. These compliance levels are forged and rooted in the confidence that Canadians place in the agency by virtue of its fairness, accountability, and integrity. Maintaining and building upon the trust that Canadians place in the CRA is a critical function for any Minister of National Revenue.
With this in mind and with the issue of the agency model in the forefront this afternoon, allow me to make one additional observation. While I'm a big supporter of the agency model, I recognize that it's not perfect, and sometimes the CRA's own strengths can highlight a weakness. Without question, there exists no federal government department that can deliver what CRA delivers with the same levels of competency, scale, and efficiency.
CRA's taxpayers are well served, but sometimes in our haste to meet these objectives, some dimensions of our interactions with them can be overlooked. What may be overlooked in the agency model is an independent channel for the average person or the ordinary business to access when they feel the agency has not fully responded to their needs.
Currently, taxpayers can file appeals for an adjustment, but these inquiries are only processed by the agency's employees. I should mention that these employees operate independently of CRA's program areas. While these employees are unquestionably professional in carrying out their duties, the public may perceive this appeal mechanism to be somehow slanted in favour of the CRA. Confronting this perception is an issue I take quite seriously. I have asked officials to provide me with a blueprint to improve the current avenues of rights and appeals that provide taxpayers and benefit recipients with an additional level of confidence in their dealings with the CRA.
Mr. Chairman, I'm hoping to have more to say about this early next year, and I would be pleased to come back to share my results with this committee. I am very much appreciative of this opportunity to speak to the members of the committee about the Canada Revenue Agency, and I thank you for your invitation. I would be pleased to take any questions that you or committee members have to ask of me.
Thank you, Ms. Minister, for coming by. We have been asking for your presence for awhile, because this five-year review is a never-ending task. I think we're on a ten-year review, actually.
I want to discuss something that you're responsible for. I understand that you're not responsible for the GST rebate, but I understand that you're responsible for cutting the advisory committees. I know you referred to them in your brief.
What I have here is that the Canada Revenue Agency eliminated not just one advisory committee, but they included various ones like the charity advisory committee, the disability advisory committee, the pension advisory committee, the tax professionals advisory committee, and the Assembly of First Nations advisory committee. How is this area going to be run if they're not going to seek any advice? This doesn't make any sense. Are we looking to just save less than a million dollars here? It think that's all you're going to save.
In the end, how is CRA going to get any direction if they're not going to speak to the public? From all the hearings we've had to date, it seems they already have a bad reputation, so I just don't see how we're going to be able to recommend anything in our five-year review if, at minimum, these advisory committee boards are going to be eliminated.
I would like to respond to that.
When I sat down and looked at the advisory boards, there were only three advisory boards that came from western Canada. They weren't spread out across the country the way I felt they should be, and they met, to me, not the right number of times per year.
I thought we would look seriously at redoing the whole program. The small business task force is a prime example of what we are doing now. We're seriously looking at ways that we can be innovative and get a broad scope right across the country, without costing the taxpayers a lot of money.
I don't mean to interrupt, but we're limited in our time.
We're not talking about the small business task force. If there is nobody from out west, you can always have somebody put on these advisory committees. If anything, we could even move them to Saskatoon. I have no problem with that. But the idea is that the issues are not going to come before the Revenue Agency. The charities advisory and the disability one, from what I understand, are still functioning, but without government subsidy. They're still answering the phone and they're still running.
I think it's from a lack of understanding or because there is some type of insensitivity regarding this issue. Can you just answer on charities, disabilities, and the pension advisory? I'm not even talking about the tax professionals. The tax professionals are pretty well concentrated in big urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, or Ottawa.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Minister, I would like to thank you because I had informed you about a problem in one of or Attikamek communities. Yesterday, we met people from your office, as well as from the Agency, and it looks like we're headed towards a settlement.
This situation revealed a rather worrisome state of affairs, meaning that in a community like Manowan, where people are illiterate—they speak French, but cannot read it—they are sent forms, but are unable to understand what is being asked of them, particularly as the documents they are asked to provide are not the sorts of things to which they have access. For example, they are asked for mortgage contracts, even though they do not own their houses, or even rent them. It is the band council that...
So I was wondering, perhaps along the same lines as Mr. Pacetti's question, about how the Agency could do something to take these realities into account. As it happens, 30 families had their food supplies cut off and they reacted when their cheques did not arrive. Would it not be a good idea to work more closely with the band councils? This question led me to wonder about the methods we use to deal with these people, who are first class citizens. I think that you agree with me on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Minister, for being here.
You, of course, have the most loved department in the entire country, so the challenges are always huge. We appreciate it that you spoke to us about wanting to ensure that the agency was an enabler of small and medium-sized business. You're aware that there have been recent stories. In fact, one person, my own constituent, called me because he was very upset. In the case of my constituent, he had paid his taxes early and still got a 10% penalty. He was dinged for another $8,000 or $9,000 because he hadn't paid through a bank.
I find it kind of hard to swallow when somebody pays their bill, and it's paid not only on time but early, and then they're charged interest. I just wonder how that could be justified. And there are other such stories. I just wonder what your response is or what the agency's response is to what seems to be a manifest unfairness.
Thanks very much, Mr. Savage.
I'll use my prerogative and just introduce a couple of topics for discussion here.
Since we know the tax debt in the country has grown faster than total taxes paid for a decade and a half, we know we have a challenge, at the very least, to collect unpaid taxes. The committee has just finished its prebudget consultative process and put together recommendations. The report was just released today, and we may have a suggestion, Minister, that you can take to your colleague, the finance minister, if you're supportive of it, and he might change a policy that may assist. This is an issue or recommendation that relates to the fairness aspect of our system.
Obviously, if it rests on any foundation at all as far as tax collection is concerned, our system rests on the foundation of perceived fairness. It's a voluntary system. Surely, if it isn't perceived as fair, people won't cooperate in the system to the degree that we'd like.
One of the policies that was introduced in terms of tax collection about sixteen years ago was to create a differential obligation on the part of Canadian taxpayers, in terms of the interest they owed Revenue Canada on late payments versus the interest they were awarded on money owed to them. Our recommendation as a committee is that these interest rates be leveled, that they be the same. From the standpoint of perceived fairness, at the very least, as a committee we think this is a valid recommendation. Obviously, charging more to Canadian taxpayers than they get for the money that's owed to them hasn't worked in terms of encouraging them to pay their taxes promptly and on time, so I would argue against anyone who would advance the idea of this change being somehow a disincentive to Canadians to pay their taxes.
If you'd like to comment on it, great. If you're supportive of it, great. I know the committee would appreciate it. We know it's a policy issue, but we also know that a whisper from you to the minister would of course convince him to make the change.
On another matter, I would like to hear from you what role the Agency plays in combatting money laundering and tax evasion in tax havens. It has an international dimension. It is a well-known fact that this scourge is becoming increasingly widespread. One sign of this is the increase in direct investment from Canada in Barbados, an amount that has grown from $5 billion in 1995 to almost $25 billion in 2005. This cannot simply represent money in direct investments.
So what is the Agency's role and how does the Agency organize its work with other entities, such as the RCMP and FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada? Recently, a bill concerning ways of improving FINTRAC's work was studied, and everyone at the Agency seemed happy about it. Could you speak to us a bit more about it.
On the subject of costing, there are a couple of different ways to tackle it, depending on the circumstances.
On an ongoing basis, we try to track the cost, on a unit basis, of servicing the accounts: the T1 accounts, or the individual accounts; the T2, or corporation accounts; things like the GST accounts. So we don't do it on the basis of individual measures, but we can give some sense of what the aggregate cost of a revenue stream is.
The other thing, though, that I think is maybe more pertinent to your question is when there is a new measure that comes in, we will go through an exercise of trying to determine what would be the incremental cost of that measure. We do that largely for budgeting purposes so that we can advise the Department of Finance on how we might need to have our budget adjusted. Those would then appear in Treasury Board submissions, and ultimately in supplementary estimates.
I appreciate it very much.
One of the questions—which I guess is related to a change in service that happened under the previous administration and which is still going through its implementation stages—deals with when a client of CRA comes into an office and has a decision to make with respect to wanting to speak to someone or to use a telephone.
Generally speaking, a lot of the concerns that I have received in my riding office revolve around the fact that the phone is positioned in such a way that the client can actually see the folks working inside who used to be able to help them at the counter and who now, unfortunately, aren't able to do that. Especially for a riding like mine, where I have a number of senior citizens who need to use the facilities on a regular basis and have found it very difficult, I wonder if you could comment on how that implementation is going, and also if there is a review that is going to take place that could potentially help some of these folks.
Thank you, Mr. Dykstra.
Thank you, Madam Minister. We appreciate the straightforwardness of your answers. You've put a much friendlier face on the Canada Revenue Agency than the previous minister did, so we thank you especially for that.
We'll now invite Ms. Roveto to come forward, and we'll continue with a presentation from her.
Thank you, again, on behalf of the committee.
Ms. Roveto, I hope I'm not rushing you, but I want to make sure there's lots of time for exchange with committee members. I welcome you and your colleagues and invite you to proceed as you wish with your introductory remarks, please.
I appreciate the humour.
My purpose here is to discuss the five-year report on this really unique governance model that was established in 1999 for the Canada Revenue Agency. It is a model of governance that is quite different in that you have a board of management versus a board of directors, which means there is very much a separation of accountabilities.
But as the minister said, it has been an extremely successful experiment in terms of improving operating efficiency, effectiveness, and focus within the management of the organization. And I think to that credit, we see many of our foreign colleagues coming to take a look at this and at the success of the organization.
Based on that, I'd be happy, Mr. Chairman, under your direction to respond to any questions the committee members may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will continue with my question about Manowan. I do not know, Madam, whether you are aware of it, but we had a specific problem at that location. We had the full cooperation of people from the Agency, but I am still concerned about the situation.
I noticed in your presentation that you had a project management policy. According to what I was told yesterday, an audit and investigation pilot project for the Child Tax Benefit was under way. In September, 3,500 files were reviewed and they were processed without involving the claimants. In the end, one-third of the people received a letter concerning an audit and investigation, which means approximately 1,100 of them. In the community of Manowan, whose total population is 2,000, or approximately 250 families, 100 of these families received the letter in question and of these, 30 were unable to reply properly and had their benefits suspended. However, the situation is currently being corrected.
On the other hand, how can a random sample—because it is a random check—yield a result in which 100 families in a community of only approximately 250 families are required to have an audit and investigation?
When such a situation occurs, what happens at the Agency? Does the sampling method remain the same ad vitam aeternam, or will steps be taken to devise procedures that could prevent such a situation from occurring again? There would appear to be discrimination. I don't want to question your motives, but sometimes, in aboriginal communities where relations between Whites and aboriginal people are tense—which is not the case for the Attikamek in Manowan—it may have been an additional contributor to friction.
So what will happen? Clearly, the sample did not yield the results desired by the Agency in terms of a random check of the files.
Mr. Chairman, I think this is one of those issues that crosses that wall between the responsibilities of the board of management. Because we are actually not allowed to have any access to information about any particular taxpaying group, etc., I'll let Michel answer it.
I can tell you that one of the processes we have instituted is that any communication to me as chair or to any board member is provided to the corporate secretary. We log all that, any communications, and then we also monitor management's action on those communications.
So it comes through to us. We do have a mechanism to ensure, without any access to information, that management is doing what it should be doing according to policies and procedures. In this specific case, because it does get over the wall into more of the program issues, where the word of management has no authority, I'll let Michel respond.
Thank you, panel, for appearing today.
The CRA review has been an interesting process to this point. I want to run a couple of scenarios by you. Obviously we often have constituents come in who have problems dealing specifically with taxation, taxes payable, and services that they don't feel they're getting from the CRA.
I have an employer in my riding right now, a fairly significant employer. His receivables don't come in very frequently. He gets paid large sums of money, but infrequently. The CRA is currently demanding that his GST and his taxes be paid on a specific date, when he hasn't received the money yet. This is causing him significant fines, penalties, and harassment from the CRA.
He has gone to them several times and said, “This is how my business works, so how can we change this, how can we make this work? I want to pay my taxes, but I haven't been paid yet.” What he continues to get back is, “You must conform to how we do business.” When he doesn't conform, he gets another penalty and owes even more money. He is being called upon to pay a disproportionate sum of taxes because his business doesn't conform to the box that we've set up for the CRA.
How would you advise me to talk to this employer, who employs in excess of 200 people in my riding?
I also have a question about the appeals process. I think the issue brought forward by Mr. Paquette was a good one, with respect to an ombudsman. I am happy to hear that we are putting in an appeals process that may be a bit more of a customer-friendly—for lack of a better word—or taxpayer-friendly system, because I have a lot of people who come in and say they don't know who to talk to.
Obviously the automatic response, when you're talking to somebody on the phone, is, let me speak to your manager. I am sure that's the automatic response for everyone, and everyone can't speak to a manager. You would have nothing but managers, because that would be the only way you could conduct business. But there is frustration, and there is a high level of misunderstanding of how assessments are done.
For a lot of people who can't afford an attorney to go through an appeals process, I can't emphasize enough that this system needs to be set in place.
In the meantime, how do we go about assisting our constituents to help them through the process? What is the process right now for people who feel they have been assessed unfairly?
Thanks to all of you for being here. I'm sorry I missed your presentation, and I'm sorry I missed the minister's presentation. So I apologize in advance if I ask any questions that have already been dealt with.
One of the questions I've raised in the past that I'd still like to pursue is the loss of the counter service in many communities across this country. I've asked questions in the past about the reliance of senior citizens and low-income residents on these centres for getting help and having questions answered and paying their taxes directly.
Mike Wallace was telling me as I came in that in fact the minister has said there will be a change and that stamping will again be brought into effect, but that only answers part of my concern. It really is the question of being able to access services directly, getting help when you need it, especially folks who may not have computers, who may not have a way to put off getting the information they need. A single-parent mom comes in and can't wait to make an appointment. She has a schedule and may just forget it then. Or a senior citizen may just pop in. It's important at that point, and I think it's very hard for some people to adapt to this new system.
So I'm wondering if you're rethinking this at all. What exactly is available and when is it available to people who need help with their taxation issues and, secondly, for payment of their taxes?
I appreciate the answers.
With respect to alternative places to do one's banking or pay one's taxes, there are many communities where there are no bank branches left. In many, many parts of this country there is no such thing as a bank branch on every corner.
You probably don't want the rant I gave in the House today in the context of Bill . Again I will say, Winnipeg North has lost virtually all of its bank branches in ten years. The options are payday lenders, and I don't think you're suggesting we go there. It's not that simple in many, many communities, and Service Canada doesn't have the expertise to do that.
The service is not designed for communities that are not wealthy suburban areas, where they can get to a bank, and they have cars and they have computers. We're talking about ordinary communities with single-parent families and senior citizens who don't have a lot of resources but need some personal contact. They need somewhere to go when the problem is there...another day when they might not have someone to look after their kid or when they're squeezing it in between appointments.
So there still is that problem that we haven't addressed. I really fear for what this means for the spirit and soul of a community when we cut off everything that means anything in terms of services.
On top of that, I still have constituents calling. They try this number out. They have a simple question. They get a number. They press here, they press there, and they can't get through. Then they call me and say, “I can't get through.”
I said to Michel last time that what we're ending up with in terms of Revenue Canada is what happened with Immigration: government offloads. People don't know where to go, so where do they go? They go to their MP. So we have to then provide direct services because there's no one in government available. In the case of Immigration, in the space of six years we went from a 40% caseload to a 90% caseload, and it's all related to government offloading and outsourcing and the devolution....
I wonder if there's a plan to deal with this problem.
First of all, I think one of the things I'd like to say, Mr. Chairman, is that there is a line between governance and management. The board of management is very much involved with ensuring that the organization has the appropriate policies and procedures and strategies to do its job effectively, in a very accountable and transparent way.
Given that, I think one of the statements the minister made was that this is going to be phased in over time. Given that time horizon, there is the opportunity to find jobs for these people who might be displaced. One of the things the board is looking at in terms of the footprint of the organization is to push more out of the Ottawa region, so that any new opportunities are placed closer to the taxpayers and the clients, to the degree that it is economically possible. That's because it is always a balancing act between the cost to the taxpayer and also the services to the taxpayer.
The other thing that was in one of our annual reports was that like other government departments, the Canada Revenue Agency will be facing a lot of retirements over the next few years. About 17.5% of employees are eligible for retirement in 2007. That doesn't mean they will retire in 2007, but they are eligible for retirement. I'm sure some of them are in P.E.I. as well.
Given the time horizon, I am sure management will do everything possible to retain the employment of the people in Summerside.
I just want to remind the committee that the minister said the agency would make best efforts. It's important that the committee realize that the CRA is an organization that has 44,000 employees in 55 locations across the country. Every day, there are jobs that are eliminated and jobs that are created.
We just created a secretariat for the softwood agreement that has been reached. It's out of Surrey, in the Vancouver area. Tomorrow, if there is a new program that the government or any provincial government we serve creates, we may put it in one place or the other, in the most effective and most efficient place to put it.
There is a very dedicated group of employees in Summerside, like in any other tax centre. Obviously, if the agency could put some new business in Summerside to find employment for the employees over a certain number of years, we'll certainly do it, with pleasure, because it's a very productive office. But we cannot give an absolute guarantee at this point.
I have just a couple of very specific questions. In response to the increasing challenges, if we believe the AG's report about the underground economy and revenue leakage therein, I know the department targeted certain aspects or certain sectors of the economy, such as the construction industry, some years ago and so on. My questions have absolutely nothing to do with that.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: I understand from that activity, therefore, that the agency has the ability to target certain sectors of the economy for special attention in terms of collecting taxes. Whose bright idea was it to go after competitive curlers?
Not here, but there are.
About a year ago there was a news item about going after a particular curler. I know you can't talk about particular cases, but Wayne Middaugh is a friend of mine.
There is a World Curling Tour. In any given winter there might be perhaps a few dozen curlers who make more than it costs them to curl, and several thousand pay more than they get. Because I've heard nothing about this over the last year, and neither have some of the curlers involved, I'm curious about where this initiative is at. Is there any program under way, or has this misguided attempt to try to rake in some revenue, which is minuscule relative to the cost of raking it in, been dropped?
Mr. Chairman, I think one of the board's strongest activities since its inception has been in the whole area of human resources management. There has been a great modernization of the human resources practice within the agency. The agency has instituted a recruitment, selection, and promotion process based on sets of common competencies. It has also developed an open dispute resolution process for employees. We have instituted a new job classification system that has also streamlined areas, and there was a lot of liaison with the unions there in terms of achieving effectiveness.
We've increased employee satisfaction, and there was a significant reduction in the number of unions. At its inception, I believe there were something like 23 unions that the agency negotiated with. I believe there are now two. There might be a third small one, but there are two main unions that we negotiate with.
At the executive levels, there have been significant changes in terms of the role of the board of management in the governance of the executives of the organization. For example, the board of management establishes objectives for the CEO or the commissioner every year. At the end of the year, we also measure performance against those objectives that have been set for the commissioner. For all of the “C” jobs, if you like—CEO, COO, CFO, and the director of internal audit—their performance reviews are reviewed by the appropriate committee, be it the audit committee or the human resources committee of the board.
I think these have been very positive developments in terms of the human resources management process. As I mentioned, the board of management has a human resources committee that works very effectively with management in this area.
There's another thing that the board of management has done in the past twelve months. We have asked to be involved in developments at the early end, rather than having management present us with final solutions for approval. That allows a much broader discussion and direction to management, and it also encourages them to look at other alternatives in terms of the development of their plans.
So, particularly in the area of human resources, there have been a lot of positive developments under the agency model.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses.
Ms. Roveto, I do have a question for you as chair of the board of management, but first of all, I want to drill down a bit and ask Mr. Dorais this. One of the areas that we hear about in Nova Scotia—that I've heard about, although I'm sort of an urban MP—from people in the fish industry, is that there is a large underground economy in the fish business, that people land fish, and depending on whether the buyers, the plant owners, pay by cheque or by cash, the price they get is different. Is that something the agency is intimately aware of and following up on a regular basis?
Certainly the issue of revenue collection and the arrears is one, as we've discussed, that has been on the board of management's agenda over the last few years, and continues to be, and we will follow through on that.
Certainly there are a number of large projects, including an enterprise risk management project. We're looking at how various risks within the agencies might impact others, and how we mitigate those risks, since this is such a crucial operating environment for the government and for the country in many respects.
There are the two ongoing issues. How do we do our business? There are two, or actually three, things that help us do our business: the financing of the agency; people; and technology. Certainly ensuring that we have the right people and the right technology to meet the future challenges of the Canadian economy is something that is always at the forefront in our minds.
Thank you for coming. I am sorry I missed the presentation, but I did read it while others were asking questions.
My questions are really about performance and the connection between you and the actual folks who do the work and the minister.
We'll start with collections. We heard from the minister that we are at about 5% in terms of accounts receivable, and so on. Does the board then deal with that kind of issue in terms of setting targets for CRA on annual basis, on how much should be collected in terms of a percentage basis and how it might be collected?
So, one, are there targets, and two, do we use outside agencies to do the collections, or is it all in-house, and have we ever considered using outside agencies to do the collections?
I believe you were out of the room, but revenue collection is constantly before the board of management, and it is a very complex issue. For example, one of the limitations is our legacy systems and technology that do not facilitate the collection.
At a board of management meeting today, we approved $62.8 million for a three-year project to improve the collections for T1s. We are also looking at how to improve collections for T2s. That will be a subsequent project, which we will continue to monitor, and how management goes about improving its collections. At this stage, it's a bit early for us, other than to manage the deliverables and the budget, to know the payback.
We've had separate projects. In 2005, I believe we had a project specifically targeted to put extra budget dollars towards collections. We made some progress there, so it is an ongoing issue.
The one thing I've learned about collections is that it is not one issue; it's different, depending on whether it's GST, T1. There are different issues, and you have to break it down into those components to really look at it. We are constantly moving forward in our efforts in that respect.
I am going to ask that question.
I've worked in business before, and obviously things change, programs change, and businesses change. From a business model, where does saving jobs...? If I went back to my taxpayers in Burlington and said, we've cut the program, but we still kept the jobs because they were there.... I don't care what other people have promised or not.
I want to know from your perspective, where does the employee fit into the picture, in terms of the criteria regarding whether or not it's an effective program?
I assure Mr. Wallace that the report was in no way, shape or form available in advance—although members may have discussed it with certain journalists. That, of course, is a disappointment, Mr. Wallace, for all members of the committee, I'm sure.
Before we adjourn, it will be my last opportunity to thank the committee members and staff for all their work over the last several weeks and months. If someone had told me five months ago that I'd enjoy this job, I'd have laughed. But I have. I have appreciated the support of the staff most of all, and the committee members as well.
I thank them, and I wish you all, sincerely, the very best for the upcoming holidays and the best to you and your families, and I look forward to seeing you in the new year, if not sooner.
We are adjourned.