Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
I also want to ask, if I may, as a last question here, about improving telephone services. You mentioned that in your opening statement. In particular, you talked about lowering wait times. How is the CRA doing that? Can you also be specific in your answer on what the current average wait times are, as well as goals for the future to improve that average?
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do you have an average wait time, Mr. Hamilton, at the present time? Can CRA cite an average wait time for callers or not?
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for coming. There are so many things to go through, and I understand it's a very complicated thing to wade through all this. Thank you for all your work on this.
Among the things that have been done when we talk about service delivery.... As you know, we reopened nine of the veterans service centres and then opened an additional one. Have you had any feedback on the ability of veterans to receive their services since those have been reopened?
View Karen Ludwig Profile
Lib. (NB)
You mentioned, Mr. Dalton, about the long wait times being an issue, but when you spoke with people, maybe it was not that great of an issue. If they had regular updates on their cases—regular feedback—would that offer some...? Would regular feedback on where the case is in the system be of value?
The second part of my question is this: Has the reinstatement of a number of front-line service workers made a difference in terms of the level of satisfaction?
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
That's good. I'll just weave in my message and keep saying how wonderful you are, because you understand how bad it is that the government's not giving the Auditor General enough money to do his job. That's why I'm so pleased to see.... No, I won't do that.
I thank you, Chair.
Secretary, what troubled me, on page 16, 1.62 stood out. “We found that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat developed a government-wide service strategy in 2017: the Government of Canada Clients First Service Strategy.” That sounds great. “The strategy prioritized providing services online but did not include call centres or mention the government-wide modernization of call centres, despite the fact that they continue to be an important way for clients to get information.”
That number is 25%, a quarter of all Canadians use that. How on earth did you get to the point where you were planning contact for services for Canadians, and never gave a thought to the phone? Twenty-five per cent of Canadians.... Given the fact that Michael Ferguson's mantra was, again, “Do service well”, don't measure how well you move paper or a message from one desk to another. Measure the outcome for citizens and how they are, or are not, receiving the services they're entitled to.
How could something this obvious—a quarter of all Canadians—be overlooked in this grand strategy?
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
People are paid good money to be planners. The whole idea is that they're supposed to think these things through. I understand if it was a small percentage, but a quarter of all Canadians? That's really disheartening. It's further disheartening that you don't seem to be able to acknowledge when anything is wrong. All you want to do is talk about how wonderful things are. I've told deputies before, don't come in here and be defensive. Do what the Auditor General did and approach the criticism that way. If it's wrong, say so, admit it, acknowledge you failed, and then say what you're going to do about it.
Don't spin. That's our job.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. Unfortunately, I hear those types of examples all too often. Those are the types of things that we obviously need to be looking at to try to address with regulatory compliance.
Mr. Achen, regarding the CRA, you raised an issue that is also one I hear so frequently. You mentioned, and I actually hadn't heard this statistic before, that we have five times the number of agents per capita in the CRA than does the IRS. I've heard that expressed in different ways before, about the thousands and thousands of agents that we have at CRA, yet when you make a phone call, you can never get any one of them on the phone. People always wonder how the heck it is possible, with all those people there, that you can't even get someone on the phone. Then they say, if you ever do get someone on the phone, you might talk to four different agents and get six or eight different opinions, so that's obviously a source of frustration.
I wonder if you might speak to the opportunity that's lost for our businesses, particularly our small businesses, when they're dealing with these types of compliance burdens with the CRA. Obviously the complicated nature of the tax code and the fact that even the CRA agents can't really give you a proper interpretation of it, what do those effects mean for our small businesses in terms of lost opportunity to be able to be competitive and to be able to grow their businesses, mentor employees and so on?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I have a limited amount of time. Specifically, from an opportunity cost perspective, the government is investing—spending—$51 million worth of tax dollars and assuming oversight and, ostensibly, liability related to an arm's-length profession that exists to interpret difficulties in an existing government system.
I'm wondering if there was any opportunity cost analysis done to apply that $51 million to ease service delivery specifically related to this particular expenditure?
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
We talked about the fact that senior women don't have a great deal of access in terms of programming. One of the things that bothered me—I was a seniors critic and a veterans critic—was that government is using technology more and more. They're putting things online and the answer to someone who needs help is “Well, it's online”. To someone who is not literate in terms of that, that doesn't help.
We have all of these 1-800 numbers, and if you sit there for 45 minutes listening to the recording, it finally drops off and you have to start all over again. I think this lack of human contact is problematic. Is there a role for the federal government in terms of re-establishing that human face to programs, the things that people need, so that they can access them as they did in the past?
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
How widespread is that kind of approach? You talked about it in Quebec, but does anyone know if it's something that is utilized in the other provinces and territories?
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to share my speaking time with my colleague who has just arrived.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here.
My first questions will be for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dupuis.
You spoke a lot about access to French-language services, especially in airports. How important is it to also have access to legal services in French? Although Quebec is a francophone province, after the arrival of 25,000 irregular migrants in 2017, there weren't enough French-language legal services and health care. There was a particular lack of francization and interpretation services. Even in Quebec we need such services.
What is the situation in your area?
View Karen Ludwig Profile
Lib. (NB)
Do you hear from any of the veterans that you're working with about the veterans centres themselves? Are they using the veterans centres?
View Francesco Sorbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Minister, we are at nearly the end of the calendar year, which for taxpayers is the end of their fiscal year. What message would you like to send the taxpayers now that they will be filing their income taxes in a few months? I think we have done a number of things to simplify the system, to make it more efficient. Filers can file online. We've obviously reduced taxes for nine million Canadians. Perhaps you can comment on the resources that we put in place to allow filers to file by telephone, in some instances, and to simplify the system for all Canadians.
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the presenters today.
I have to first of all say how much I appreciate the improved relationship we've had in the north in the last couple of years and the improved communications. I think it's really starting to show in the number of complaints that I've been receiving over the years. The minister stated quite clearly that the process has to be fair and equitable across the country. I think there's a lot of work to be done, and a lot of work has been done. It's my understanding that CRA has recently appointed a chief service officer. How is this appointment going to help in improving fairness at the CRA?
View Michael McLeod Profile
Lib. (NT)
The previous government shut down the only office that existed in the north for CRA. I know when I first got elected, there were a number of complaints coming forward. I think it was a real challenge for many people to try to get the attention of the CRA through the process that was in place. I'm happy to see that there's been some progress in the communications and maybe we could talk about that. I really believe that services have to be equivalent right across this country, and that includes the north. There's been some progress.
Can you talk about some of these things? We've had issues with the northern residency deduction. We've had triggers that were calling for audits and some people have been audited over and over again, but things seems to be moving forward. Can you talk about what you're doing in the north?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, both.
Before I go to Mr. Richards, I did have a question in this area of the chief service officer. At our constituency offices—and I assume most members' constituency offices are in the same situation—we'll get where we're the last stop, and we'll get calls from constituents in tears trying to deal with CRA.
There's no front office service anymore. It used to be fine when people went in and were able to sit down with somebody—in my case, in the Charlottetown office—to talk it through and see what they could do. Maybe their bank account's been frozen, and whether for right or for wrong, there is a feeling among many constituents when they're talking to a CRA representative on the phone, after they get through the queue—sometimes they have to wait a long time—that they're treated like a criminal.
There has to be a different attitude in that regard, because then we get the calls and we try to deal with it through our contacts.
I will say that for MPs, most of the time in the contact we have with CRA, they do their best to help us out, and through that, help the constituent. I just want to put that on the table, that there is a problem for constituents in what they feel the attitude of the CRA individual is toward them. They feel like they've been treated like a criminal. It may have been an innocent mistake on their side or it may not, but their bank account may have been frozen or whatever.
I'm just telling you, that is a problem we have to deal with, Commissioner Hamilton. Will the chief service officer help in that regard? Is there any thought of bringing back front-line services at CRA offices?
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you for coming, Mr. Thibeau.
You were talking about issues of outreach and about our needing to get better services out to people in isolated areas in the north and, for the services that are available to them, getting the information to them. Have you any suggestions for us as to how we can do that?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:53
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being here and for the good work you're doing in Saskatchewan. It's really appreciated. Your testimony here today will, I'm sure, lead to some recommendations that we can make to the government to ensure that indigenous veterans are getting better services and more recognition for the incredible military service that indigenous people have given to our country.
Mr. Highway, I'll start with you. You mentioned some of the new programs that are now in place for veterans that were not available when you left the forces back in the 1960s, or whenever it was you were in the service and then left.
You mentioned education and training benefit, help with resumé writing, career assistance, help for families, and the caregiver recognition benefit. All of this is important work. Is there any difference that you see with the delivery of those types of services for indigenous veterans in particular that we should be aware of? Do you think it's just as important to make sure that every person, whether they are an indigenous person living on reserve, off reserve, or Métis, is aware of those services? Do you think there's any difference in how the government should be delivering those services to indigenous people?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:56
If the Department of Veterans Affairs consulted with your organization, for example, and others across the country to find out how they could improve that service delivery model to indigenous veterans, do you think that would be welcomed by your association?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:56
What's your view of how that office is performing right now, as far as its service delivery to veterans in Saskatchewan?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:57
It should proactively make sure they are getting the services and programs they are entitled to, rather than sitting back and waiting for indigenous veterans to come to them. Would you agree with that?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:57
Chief Ross, is there a difference in how services are accessed by indigenous veterans living on reserve or off reserve? Is there a relationship between VAC with any bands, for example, in Saskatchewan, and how they deliver their services?
View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
View Brian Masse Profile
2018-04-17 11:58
Thank you, Madam Chair. One of the things I want to address is Amazon.
With regard to postal delivery services, Canada Post has carved out a very good strategy by going to markets that might not have been affordable, such as smaller communities, but still doing so because of the principles of Canada Post and an operating philosophy for Canadians that's different from just the bottom line.
The interesting aspect you have is that Amazon is in competition for massive public subsidization, whether it be in the United States or Canada right now, and it is going to be one of your major competitors. Are there any thoughts in terms of what the business plan response is going to be from Canada Post if Amazon receives massive public subsidization?
Clearly, whether it's a facility located in Canada or the United States, there seems to be municipal, provincial or state, and maybe perhaps even, on the U.S. side, federal allocation of dollars to get their operations going for everything from road infrastructure to technology, as well as training dollars. Has there been any thought about that situation? Your competitor is going to receive quite a serious, significant contribution, most likely from the public purse.
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for coming.
I don't know who can best answer this, but as you know, the Veterans Affairs offices have been opened across the country. Has that improved the ability to provide services to veterans? Has there been value added to this?
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much for your answer.
Lastly, what have we done to improve the service for veterans who find themselves in remote or rural areas? Has there been any improvement recently?
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
There was $42.8 million announced in the budget for service delivery. There are a couple of things. First, we know there are 29,000 vets—according to a report in November that came through the media—waiting for disability claims to be processed. That was an increase of 50% over eight months prior.
Can you identify where that $42.8 million is going? Will it be going to some of this outreach, and also to the backlog? Is that the right amount to get that backlog from 29,000 to zero, because I think we all agree that it needs to be at zero?
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
This committee, over the years that I've been involved with it, has looked at issues of service delivery. A couple of comments that we've made have been dealing with the issue of being provided information from the moment you sign up and enlist. As you progress, that information is continually given to you as to what you can obtain if certain things should happen. As you progress, you continually learn that. Some of the recommendations that we've made in the past were to do with such information providing that service.
Do you see that as a value or do you see that as a hindrance?
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
So, there are some significant issues there for some folks, obviously, as they're transitioning.
I have a quick question, too, with regard to making things better for them so they don't come to the point where you're needing to help them.
We heard testimony earlier from the Veterans Transition Network. You're probably familiar with the services they provide.
How important do you think it would be to have those kinds of services actually be the priority as our members are looking at possibly facing the decision to no longer be part of their service at an earlier time?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you both very much for your presentations.
Ms. Lowther, I really appreciate your coming here and also the work you do in Nova Scotia, my home province. I find it amazing when I hear stories about veterans and how you are able to help them. I sometimes wonder what we would do if you and your team were not there.
Your outreach is right across Canada. I only have four minutes and I have about four more questions. In 45 seconds, can you tell us how you provide the service right across Canada?
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
I know you can only speak to Siksika, but the ability to offer services in remote and rural areas, because a lot of our reserves are in very remote areas, I'm wondering how we overcome those kinds of challenges. I'm looking for any kind of feedback so the federal government can play a role to make sure we are able to deliver services needed in areas outside a concentrated area.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-30 16:06
Excellent.
I have one last question.
There is something we have heard from several witnesses over the passed two years, since I have been on this committee. That is the notion of services that are managed for and by the main parties concerned. I know you're asking the province to play a role in the management of day cares, but we wonder whether the community could also play a role. Often in small villages, these services are managed for and by the official language minority. In Ontario, for instance, there are services managed by francophones for francophones.
What role should the community play to ensure services are managed by and for the communities concerned?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
2017-11-30 12:21
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Gary.
Welcome to both ministers. I congratulate both you and the government for dissolving that entrenched, paternalistic, colonial structure that I think everyone in this room recognizes was a challenge to deal with. I'm optimistic about the change in that approach.
No one will disagree with me that Inuit are indigenous people in this country. My question is for Minister Philpott.
When you talk about indigenous services, which specific services? There are some that specify first nations. For my benefit and knowing where to go, what specific services for Inuit and Nunavut will we deal with under the new and improved department?
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2017-11-30 9:28
In your response, you say that you're proud of the work that your employees carry out every day. Who are those managers who gave you the internal report stating that 90% of the callers were able to reach you? That is a totally inaccurate report. Are you still proud of those managers who are responsible for that?
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2017-11-30 9:30
Were the resources a constraint for you at any time in order to improve the technology and deliver better service to taxpayers?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Hamilton, your service failed to deliver 84% of the time. It failed 84% of the time.
You say you are not surprised, but what did you do not to be surprised? How can it be that you are not surprised that your service did not work 84% of the time?
That is unacceptable, sir.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Okay, we can all improve in life, we get that.
Yet with an 84% failure rate, you do not need to improve; you need to shake things up or else we have to start over from scratch. Come on, it is not a question of improving. You need a change in course and a kick in the backside to get things working properly.
Mr. Hamilton, if you wanted to hire someone and they got 16% on their test, would you hire them?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Hamilton, do you realize that what you just said is an insult to the 84% of people who call and do not get the service to which they are entitled and which they pay for?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Hamilton, what I find very disappointing is the way you are talking about this as though it were a question of making a few improvements. We are talking about an 84% failure rate. What is needed here is not an improvement: you need to completely review the structure and, above all, the culture.
How have you been able to keep your job with an 84% failure rate?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
That is your answer but it is unacceptable to Canadians.
What was done was more than a survey: it was demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that things are not working. You say that the technology has to be improved. That is not true. The role of technology is to support effectiveness; it is not the source of the problems. In the current culture, you are not worried about this. When you say that it is just a survey question and all that is needed is improvement, it is as though you are burying your head in the sand. I am sorry to have to be so harsh, Mr. Hamilton, but your answers are not acceptable.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
It is inaccurate to say your error rate is 6%, and it's actually 30%. You don't think that's misleading? You don't think that's inaccurate?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In your introduction earlier, you said something that was right on the mark. In fact, I am convinced that the 337 other members of the House of Commons share your opinion.
We have received a lot of calls from Canadians who were outraged by this. These people are not millionaires or people who hire an accountant to fill out their tax return. They are ordinary citizens with a modest income. In most cases, they are seniors. Eight times out of ten, or 84% of the time, these people were not able to talk to an agent or, even worse, got incorrect information.
Did these people pay too much tax or not enough? That is the question, and it is obviously the first one that comes to mind for them.
Did they pay too much tax as a result of the incorrect information they were given?
Mr. Hamilton, what recourse do these people have?
View Alexandra Mendès Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you all for being here.
I'm going to follow up on my colleagues' points, Mr. Christopherson's and Mr. Deltell's, about the fact that taxpayers are citizens. Taxpayers expect a government that provides services to them that are accurate and timely.
When someone calls one of the call centres to ask for tax information and is given an erroneous answer, that will most automatically cause someone, in good faith, to submit an erroneous return. He or she is going to make a return that is mistaken because of the information he or she received. Mr. Deltell asked what recourse they have. Almost automatically the agency actually does the calculations and eventually will give us a proper amount. However, when we owe money to the agency, we're charged interest. When the agency owes money to us, not one red cent is paid in interest. For some people this is a big issue. It's a lot of money. They did it in good faith. They actually produced their returns in good faith.
Why are we continuing to provide bad information to people? If somebody doesn't know the answer, they should tell the citizen that they don't know the answer. Refer them to somebody who can answer them. But giving erroneous information is extremely harmful. I really can't understand how for years—this is not recent, this is not one time, this has been going on for awhile—we can continue to sustain a service that is providing erroneous information to citizens.
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
CPC (ON)
There is only one perspective that matters here. That is the perspective of the people we're serving. Those are the people who are calling in. Those are the callers. From the callers' perspective, it's a 36% rate. From your department's perspective, it's a 90% rate. That is a huge variance. That actually is the best example of the culture issues that are so obviously existing. I don't think there's a member around this table right now who is thinking, “Yeah, we don't really have culture issues; we need a little bit more transparency and maybe we need to train some people better and get some better technology, and CRA is off to the races”.
I don't think that is a thing. That's the message I'm hearing, and I don't think that's a thing that exists around this table. I think you need to go back. I want to know who came up with the system to say that over half the callers aren't actually callers. I want to know who came out with these results, because they just don't make sense.
View Maxime Bernier Profile
PPC (QC)
View Maxime Bernier Profile
2017-11-23 11:57
Thank you.
My question is for you, Ms. Hart, and pertains to the deployment of the new services.
You assess the applications of companies who wish to offer those services and to receive funding to do so. Yet there is not just high-speed fibre optic service. I imagine there is also satellite Internet service.
How do you decide to help a supplier provide Internet service by satellite rather than fibre optic, for a specific region?
In the regions, people sometimes prefer fibre optic access over satellite. You provide funding so companies can offer one or the other.
How do you determine the type of service that people in a given region will receive?
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
CPC (ON)
I know this wasn't necessarily the direct focus of the report, but have we seen circumstances when incorrect information was given out by the federal government and the federal government then changed the amount they're saying is owed, based on the information they gave out originally, or did we just not get there?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Nuttall. You have 10 seconds, but I'll take it.
Did you ever ask CRA, when you were given false information, if you could have that answer in writing? I've been told by constituents—and it's probably happened to us—that when you're on the phone after finally getting through, after being blocked so many times, when you get the information, all you have is really your word against somebody else's, because it's on the phone.
Would you ever ask if you could have that answer in an email or in writing?
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-23 9:47
Merci, monsieur le président.
I'd like to continue on the concern raised by Mr. Christopherson with respect to the comments you started and finished your statement with, Mr. Ferguson. I'll cite them:
I find myself delivering this message audit after audit, and year after year because we still see that departments are focused on their own activities, and not on the citizen's perspective. The audits we have delivered this week are no exception, as you will see.
Mr. Christopherson asked you, with respect, what more we can do to try to improve or change the way the government provides the services. From what I'm seeing, most of the time our public service is focused on delivering a program on time and on budget—basically, to deliver it and get results—and the lens of the citizen is not something that is taken into account.
I'm wondering whether you think it's a good idea that we bring the Clerk of the Privy Council to this committee and have that discussion as to how we can change or add that lens, to ensure that it is provided by the Clerk of the Privy Council to all deputy ministers.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-23 9:50
That's great, that's fine, because I'm looking at the macro level right now. We're going to have the time to deal with all of your reports one by one, and we will go through all of them. I hope we do.
That brings me to my second question.
In my observations in the past few years of being here, every time there was a transformational program or they were trying to transform something—and we saw it with Shared Services, and now we're seeing it with Phoenix, which are large projects and we all recognize that—it's as if there's an incapacity or a serious difficulty in basically getting the result that is aimed for. It's a concern that program after program and transformation after transformation, we're either off budget, or we're not on time, or we're not getting the results, or it's not at all what we thought it was because of various reasons.
What internal changes should be brought forward? If we keep doing the same thing in the next project when we're trying to transform or change something that we've done in the past, from what I'm seeing, we'll just get the same results.
How can you advise our public service and the deputy ministers? When they have a new project to transform or change something, what can be added? What has to be done?
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much. I want to start off by thanking the Auditor General and his team for their outstanding work and this set of reports.
I want to echo the concerns that have been expressed by my colleagues around the table, particularly Mr. Christopherson. He pointed to the Auditor General's opening statement in which he expressed the overall message that audit after audit, year after year, we still see that departments are focused on their own activities, not on the citizens' perspectives.
We've talked around the table today about the concerns of citizens, the experiences of citizens, the service to citizens. I want to start off by taking a moment to first deconstruct this terminology, because I believe it's very important that we are clear on who we serve. That, to me, is Canadians, in the most general, broadest, and most inclusive sense, whether we are talking about the oral health of first nations and Inuit children, or Syrian refugees who have now been welcomed to their new home, or indigenous women offenders who are not provided with culturally appropriate programs, or women offenders in general who are subjected to correctional programs designed for men, not women. To me, we need to be clear that we are talking about all Canadians and to understand who they are and be able to provide the types of services and programming that very clearly meet the needs of all Canadians.
With that said, I want to focus on the audit with respect to the Phoenix pay system.
Exhibit 1.2 on page 7 of the Auditor General's report shows a graph of the number of public servants with outstanding pay requests in 46 departments and agencies. This graph shows very clearly that over the course of two years, under the Miramichi pay centre, there were 15,000 public servants with outstanding pay requests. That number goes up to 35,000 in January 2016, when Phoenix was first adopted, and then we see an exponential increase in the number of outstanding pay requests, going up to the latest number, in June 2017, of 150,000.
If I were to take this graph at face value, I would understand it to be what it is described as—46 departments and agencies, the public services under those departments. However, reading the report tells me something a bit different. It points out that these outstanding pay requests were not capturing the information from all 46 departments over those two years, because some of them were not on board with those systems.
I'd like to hear the Auditor General's comment on what this means. To me, at face value, it means a significant and very worrisome increase in the number of cases. However, reading the report tells me that this increase can be attributed to departments that perhaps were not on the Miramichi pay system or the Phoenix pay system at certain points in time.
I'd like to hear the Auditor General's comments.
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I wanted to continue with the CRA audit. After determining a 30% inaccuracy rate in the information provided by persons working for the CRA, your report goes into the information that's provided by CRA in their auditing of their own activities, whether it's inaccuracy—their 6% rate versus your 30%—or the number of calls, because they don't include the blocked calls or calls that don't reach somebody in that process.
You recommend training. You recommend better services in tracking what's going on at the CRA. What do you recommend as a follow-up time period? To go from a 30% inaccuracy rate, what would be a good timeline for us to look at this and to ask for more information on changes that hopefully won't be needed?
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
CPC (ON)
Where is the issue? In your opinion, is this a top-down issue at this point? Is this strictly a training issue, whether it's on the quality assurance side or the people who are facing the client?
View Alexander Nuttall Profile
CPC (ON)
With all that said, if your business is taxation and somebody asks you when the interest is going to be charged on taxes owing, this is basically almost as easy a question as you can get. It amazes me that we need a screen to do that. How is it that we don't have training in place to show these people? This is basic.
If somebody called me when I was a banker and asked, “Alex, when does the interest start accruing?”, I knew the answer to that every single time—and it's different on every single deal—because I just know my business. How do our employees not know their business when it comes to everybody in the country having the same answer?
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm sorry, but I think what I'm really focusing on is your recommendations to the province, because I know there were circumstances in which perhaps three families would live in one household, and they would be eligible for one reimbursement, because it was per household.
That's something I just put on the table. I think the Red Cross does fantastic work, but I would say that the ability of emergency support services in the community to be flexible and culturally sensitive.... I looked at the evacuation centres in British Columbia versus those in Manitoba. I know you spoke about being able to respond to the different cultural needs, but I saw a tremendous difference between those two places in terms of the actual ability to introduce ceremony, to have traditional foods, and to be welcoming.
I would like you to comment on that particular component. As I say, I have nothing but respect for the work that you do, but I think the ability to be flexible and respond to first nations communities was somewhat limited.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Again, the point I was trying to get at was the reciprocity of how we are engaged in that compared with our competitors. I think that was the point being brought out.
The second thing I want to talk about is this. Industry, Science and Technology is about to study rural and remote Internet access and service and so on.
BDC and EDC, when you look at your customers, are there aspects of this that you feel we should be working to improve? I know from when we were down in the U.S. with that committee that the U.S. has the same issue there.
Ms. Glenn, could you perhaps fill us in a bit there?
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Walbourne, for your testimony today and for being here.
I read your latest report, and when I look at the things you're saying, it makes me wonder what you would do if you had a clean slate, if none of these barriers existed.
In other words, you're a painter and you have a blank canvas. How would you establish a system that would work for the best possible delivery of benefits for our serving members in that transition time to Veterans Affairs? What would it be? What would it look like?
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
Also, in the business world you communicate a great deal with your customers to find out if they're happy or not. Do we do that to the extent that we should with our armed forces and our veterans?
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2017-10-31 12:27
Okay. Thank you.
One of the other things you talked about is the multi-ethnic part of banking that you try to work at. One of the things in the community that I am from is that we have a very diverse community, probably one of the most diverse in Canada. I found the banks responded to that first in the sense that immediately you saw front-line staff from different ethnicities, and you saw them moving into management positions very quickly.
The one really interesting thing I saw was that in our health system we were having real problems in our ERs with the different languages. I went into a bank and I saw people of different ethnicities being taken back to talk on a phone. The bank had established a network in which they could get 200 languages online within two minutes. The private sector, your banking industry, did that quicker.
Do you have examples of where your banking industry has moved to do things like that?
View Alice Wong Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you very much.
First of all, I'd like to acknowledge a number of people who are here. The first is Mr. Soulière, for serving as the president of the national seniors council.
For your information, the seniors.ca map, which shows all the different provinces and their different benefits, is gone. They took it down in August.
The national seniors council has done a lot of studies, and those studies contain very valuable data on the healthy act of aging, seniors in social isolation, aging at home, and extending the work of seniors in the workforce. All of these are wonderful studies, and the data is still there. Hopefully it has not been taken away.
I thank Ms. Mackenzie for your work as an advocate in my province of British Columbia. I was there when you did the presentation for home care. Thank you very much for all the good work.
I thank the folks from academia as well, because the synergy is right there. It's in exactly the kind of panel we have here, with academics and government. We have at least two levels of government here.
I'll go back to the questions. The first is about caregiving. It may be related to Mr. Sangha's question about looking after seniors at home. I know that Australia supports family caregivers. I was also in London, England, with the minister and spoke with the carers' association. They have the term “carers”, which is informal. When we talk about caregiving, we have to distinguish between the unpaid, informal family caregivers and the paid, formal caregiver. I think I'm talking more about the informal caregiver .
Within our strategy we really need to look after those people as well, because they're there and their jobs are in jeopardy if their employers do not even recognize that their employees have those questions. I started the employers' panel and then, again because of the change of government, it's gone.
My question is this. Do you see the need for all three levels of government to be working together, and also for bringing back the federal-provincial-territorial forum, where two levels of government look at all the services so that there's no duplication, and then at the areas of need that both levels of government can identify? You need a leader in those areas.
This is open to all of you.
View Mona Fortier Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other solutions you would recommend from your experience in delivering such services in your community?
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
I just want to say, Lola-Dawn, that my past was spent working in a non-profit organization, and I definitely know what it feels like to wonder every year whether you're still going to be able to provide those essential services.
I have definitely heard from my constituents that Service Canada is pointing them at a computer. In our riding, and I don't know whether it's the same in yours, they're actually not willing to print out the forms needed by the seniors. Our office is now printing out the forms and going out to service organizations across the community, because seniors simply cannot access those services.
Is that the same in your region?
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
John, I want to thank you for your service to your country and to the greater good of allied forces. I really appreciate it. Whether you know it or not, you've kept Canadians and people all around the world safe. I want to thank you, sir.
I want to ask you a question about equality of services. In Canada, one thing that comes up quite frequently is the frustration that veterans feel. Some of them are from smaller communities and are more isolated. You, sir, are from a very large metropolitan centre. Your organization is doing great work for a large number of veterans where you have a critical mass and where it makes sense to do so.
How would a veteran who is, say, returning to Knox City, Gorey, or O'Donnell, Texas, find the level of services that they get there, and what would your organization be able to do in the context of providing equity of services for somebody who doesn't live within the region?
View Salma Zahid Profile
Lib. (ON)
One more recommendation is that the regulatory body should establish qualifications for registration as immigration consultants and develop a tiered system as to the category of services individual consultants are permitted to provide.
Most consultants would be able to provide basic information and perform transactional work such as completing and submitting applications while a few qualified consultants should be permitted to appear before the IRB.
What's your input on this recommendation?
View David Tilson Profile
CPC (ON)
I guess the question is what we do now. Do we get rid of them? Does the department take it over?
Maybe I'm alone, but my observation listening to the testimony is that it's not working.
In fact, maybe you could elaborate on this. What concerns does the department have with respect to the ICCRC and its tenure as a regulator over the last six years? You must have thoughts on whether it should continue, whether it can be fixed, and whether we should have something else.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
If I can follow up, the public trust is the main thing. The public trust isn't there so far. I know that you are doing your level best, but it hasn't worked for the last number of years. Mr. Tilson asked if you—the government, the body—should take over, redo the whole thing, and let this ICCRC go and—
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2017-05-29 17:59
Great, thank you.
I'm going to move on to the next issue that has been brought to our committee's attention, and that is a graduated licensing process. That is to say that not all consultants are equal. They have to go through various training at different levels to be able to do different kinds of work. Is that an option that can be adopted—not under the current model but under any model? Can that be adopted as a practice for a graduated licensing process?
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I just wanted to follow up on Ms. Kwan's question. We've talked about a graduated licensing process in this committee at various times. In your response to her question, you talked about how currently university students have an advisory system. Can you elaborate on what you meant in response to her question?
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do you have any information on some of the success that came out of it or some of the responses from students?
View Jennifer O'Connell Profile
Lib. (ON)
My last question is with regard to training for front-line workers. We heard testimony yesterday that front-line workers often don't understand whether there are new proposals or new benefits or how to interpret them. The testimony yesterday was that veterans are being denied just because the front-line or the intake person doesn't want to or doesn't know how to interpret whether they are qualified or not. It requires the veterans themselves to appeal constantly, and some just give up.
What is being done with any of these changes to ensure that the front-line intake people who are working with these veterans actually know what the policies are, know who is qualified, and ensure that anybody who is entitled actually receives the benefit?
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I'm sorry, deputy, are you kidding me? We get better answers in the House.
Let's move on.
Let's move on to page 46, “Percentage of documents translated and revised for Parliament within the deadline.” In 2013-14, it was 96.99%. In 2014-15, it went up to 97.45%; then in 2015-16, it dipped down a bit to 96.7%. Your target again is lower than this year's actual.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
I'm asking why your target is below what we had last year. You keep talking about all these ambitions in here—innovation, efficiency, momentum, and there's a lot happening—yet the documents and the data tell us you're going in the opposite direction.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
Yes, please.
My other question is about the costs, but from a different angle than my colleague was looking at when he asked his question.
People in Quebec City are very happy with the news, but they are concerned about who will have to pay for it. The airport authority has said that it is disappointed to find out that it has to foot the bill whereas, in Montreal, the bill was paid by someone else.
Can someone tell us who is going to pay to install the facilities and what impact will that have on the customers?
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
Maybe this question is better suited for Transport Canada. Is there any study being done of whether or not the federal government will be at all involved in helping alleviate those costs for some of the airports that maybe think it's disappointing that Montreal and Toronto didn't have to pay them, but they're getting tapped in that sense?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much for being here.
As was mentioned, we were in Washington last week, and it was expressed to us how anxious they are that we deal with this legislation. Our process is much different from the American process in terms of passing legislation, the whole committee process, and the way things work here aren't completely understood there.
I did have a question when we were talking about the cost of pre-clearance because it was mentioned to us when we were there that Pearson has already requested additional pre-clearance. Would that be on a cost-recovery basis, the new officers at Pearson, or would that be covered under the old agreement?
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
The way they spoke it was to deal with the growth in travellers, and they wanted to expand the size of the pre-clearance they had.
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
—part of the recovery and the transition, so I just wanted to check on that.
What would you say your biggest challenge is in delivering your services?
View Bob Bratina Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, thank you.
We've been talking about service delivery and the complexity of applications. How do you evaluate how well you're doing? It's probably not by what's printed in the media, because, like most of us, it's only the difficult things that show up publicly.
What about your evaluation? How well do you think you're doing?
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2017-05-01 16:17
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you both for being here.
I want to go back to the complexity issue, which is a theme we've seen throughout everything we've done as a committee so far in studying veterans affairs. Are you aware of a model country that we could look to as a comparison for how to streamline or simplify the way services are delivered to veterans?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2017-05-01 16:30
To go back to this chart, I couldn't begin to explain this as a parliamentarian, and I couldn't begin to explain this to another country. In going to other countries and asking them to explain their systems, I think we need to take a step back and fix what's right here. You said that clearly. This is too complex for families and veterans, and at some point they get that process fatigue where they say they can't do this anymore.
In particular, when we're talking about veterans of advanced age who can't access a computer, don't know how to navigate a computer, don't know how to navigate the system, they just give up, so they never receive the service.
I'll go back to something you said that's been sticking with me, and that is “a Canadian solution”. What do you think the Canadian solution is to simplifying and streamlining this so that veterans and their families can actually get the services they need here?
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
NDP (ON)
View Tracey Ramsey Profile
2017-05-01 17:10
My next question is about something that has been a hot topic in the news. It's about military sexual trauma. Has Veterans Affairs looked at how other countries have treated those with military sexual trauma, who may or may not qualify for benefits under our current rules of service delivery?
View Alaina Lockhart Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us again, Mr. Butler.
I appreciate having both you and the ombudsman here today as we start this study. As you know, in the other studies that we have done, we've identified and worked with the officials to look at areas where we can improve. The intent here is to take a look internationally and see what lessons can be learned.
Your information today about context and all of the other differences between our system and those of some other countries has been really good to help us keep perspective. Having said that, are there areas where you think we should focus? Is it on service delivery that you think we should be focusing as we carry out this study, or are there other suggestions?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2017-05-01 15:57
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
I want to give a heartfelt thanks to all the presenters for their excellent presentations. Thanks for your extraordinary efforts in getting here today. I know there were some plane delays because of the weather.
I'm going to focus a bit on the comments by Mr. Eustaquio and the two Jasons, Mr. Ottey and Mr. McMichael, today.
I'm delighted, Mr. McMichael, that you let us know that you were in the immigration system for a while. That is very helpful.
One of the key questions I always ask myself is, “Why do people use immigration consultants?” Part of me wonders if it's just because the process is so difficult. Is it because we only offer it in English and French? I just want your thoughts on the number one or two reasons.
Mr. Eustaquio, maybe I'm going to start with you. Why do you think members of the Portuguese community use immigration consultants? I figure that if we maybe could address some of that we could eliminate some people going to immigration consultants and some of these issues.
I'll start with you, Mr. Eustaquio; and then we'll go to Mr. Ottey and Mr. McMichael.
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2017-04-04 8:58
Mr. Arora mentioned the service level agreement between Stats Canada and you. What are the parameters? What is covered? Can you highlight that, please?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you again, Minister. Coming from the community, you and I worked with the community long before we became MPs. These are the habits we have developed over the years.
Regarding the client services, as you know, much of our money gets spent on the immigration files on a daily basis. If you talk to one client or to 50 clients, the answer is basically the same. They will probably tell you that the process is taking too long, unsatisfactory answers, dropping of phone calls, and the list goes on. What can you tell them, Minister? What have you done to improve this, and is there something coming soon?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, we have talked about the crooked consultants. We heard the horrible stories. I personally want you to watch one of the videos that I'm going to give you on how people get ripped off. They are talking about committing suicide and so on.
I think many of us believe that if the application were made easier to fill out, people could do it themselves. Because the application is a bit harder, they end up going to the crooked consultant and this is where they get ripped off. Is there any way we can shorten it? Can something be done?
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
From time to time—we hear this on a regular basis—people who fill out their own applications make a mistake. They're trying to save $1,000 or whatever the cost is.
We asked this question many times in the last committees. If there is a smaller issue, for example, data is filled out wrong, filled out in the wrong spot, or minor variances, why can't we call or email the client to tell them to fix it?
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay.
I want to get back to the line of questioning that Ms. Shanahan was following with regard to the transformation plan. You've mentioned that you've consulted with stakeholders, but I believe that your most important stakeholders are your clients, or your customers, as you call them. How much time do you spend with them trying to understand their business?
I know that one of the major complaints was about timing, about being able to deliver services at their request. How much time is SSC spending with their client organizations to ensure that they understand—I know that they still have responsibility for applications—what their needs are? How much time are you spending with them now?
View Borys Wrzesnewskyj Profile
Lib. (ON)
Committee, I understand that Mr. Arnold has a commitment that he has no option but to leave for. I will allow Mr. Arnold the opportunity to quickly say a few words, and we'll then launch right into questions.
I understand you have to leave in about seven to 10 minutes.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for being here. We apologize that we had to quickly run to the House for votes.
As you know, for all of us MPs, most of our work is dealing with a lot of immigration files, so we're looking at ways to improve the system. With the advanced technology available now, are there better ways to improve client services through more online services or with technology? I'd like to hear from a couple of you.
If anyone wants to speak first they can, but maybe we can go around and ask that question.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
That was one of my other questions. A lot of our time is wasted just getting status updates. Clients come in and ask where their application is, at what step, and then we have to fill out a consent form and so on and go through all the steps and then call and finally deliver that message to our constituents.
Thank you for sharing that.
Would anyone else like to share?
Go ahead, Mr. Green.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, thank you.
Mr. Arnold, your country has a very organized immigration system. We know that. You have dedicated visa subclasses for skilled visa, family visa, parent visa, etc. I'm wondering if you could comment or maybe expand upon the effectiveness of implementing these specific subclasses for visas and how that has improved your client service delivery.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Could you expand upon that a bit? What are some of the experiences you've had? What is the impetus in terms of looking at condensing the number of classes as that relates to client service delivery? Where is the right balance? I would say that also having very vague characteristics makes it difficult to apply, too, so in your experience, where would you see that right mix?
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