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 Blake Richards Profile
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
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 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 Diane Lebouthillier Profile
Lib. (QC)
I thank my colleague for his question.
I'm determined to improve the agency's services to meet the needs of all Canadians. The purpose of everything the agency has put in place in the past three years is to make the client our central concern.
We've introduced a new service, File My Return, an automated telephone service accessible to more than 950,000 taxpayers who have straightforward tax situations. We've clarified and simplified the use of our My Account service and also launched the CRA BizApp application.
We've reinstated the Disability Advisory Committee.
We've launched two series of Serving You Better consultations with small and medium-sized enterprises to determine with them how the agency can further simplify the way it works with them.
We've improved the objection process.
In February 2019, we'll be opening service centres for northern communities in the territorial capitals. What people in the north are experiencing is important to us. Their situation is very different from that of people in the south
We've completed installation of the new call centre platform, and it will be functional very soon. Business information requests directed to call centres migrated in November, and the service line for benefit information requests migrated on December 3.
We've also appointed the chief service and data officer, who will ensure the clientele is treated equally in the Canada Revenue Agency's various areas of activity.
We have simplified the agency's letters and forms. Last year we mailed tax packages to Canadians who chose to file their returns on paper, and we will do the same thing this year.
As I mentioned, the agency is still working to put the client at the centre of its actions.
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?
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