Categorized | Canadian Politics


Posted on 26 June 2015 by admin


The Hon. Ralph Goodale


Stephen Harper is well into his 10th year in office, and Canadians are tallying the carnage of that scorched decade.

 A prime economic example reaches back to the 2011 election.  Mr. Harper promised big tax breaks, worth billions of dollars annually, to high-wealth Canadians – despite the clear reality that the economy was weak, the proposed cuts were expensive and unfair, and middle and lower income people had larger and more pressing needs.

 As a sop to fiscal responsibility, Mr. Harper made his tax breaks “contingent” on his government first balancing its budget. That signalled a major assault on federal programs and services.  He pledged that “front line” service delivery would not be reduced – only redundant public servants in the government’s “back offices” would be affected, he said.  That sounded like nonsense at the time, and it was.

 Services and service delivery standards have been severely compromised.  Just ask WW2 veterans, or younger soldiers returning from recent wars and suffering PTSD.  Ask someone trying to reach a human-being to talk to about Employment Insurance, or a pension problem, or an immigration application that’s two years overdue.

 Or ask about the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  Taxpayers have been treated to a litany of service failures in this key department over the past several months.

First it was the letters CRA was sending to taxpayers.  They were incoherent computer-generated gibberish that no normal person could possibly understand.  Even departmental officials were at a loss to make sense of their own correspondence.

Then it was the quality of the tax information being handed out by CRA, especially to small businesses.  It was wrong 25% of the time.

Taxpayers with a complaint were told to go to the CRA Ombudsman, but that position has been vacant for a year.

CRA has closed all of its “service to the public” offices.  Its budget for “service” has been chopped by more than 25%.  Staffing is down by 20%.  The department is directing Canadians to its telephone call centre to pick up the slack.  And even that is proving to be a debacle.

Data obtained from CRA this past week shows an appalling level of bad performance.

Last year, some 12-million Canadians tried to call the tax department for information, help or advice.  Collectively, they made more than 60-million phone calls.  Two-thirds of those calls were never answered.  They got a busy signal and hung up.  For those taxpayers who persisted in trying to get through by making call-after-call over a full week’s time, still 20% never made it.

The figures so far this year show even worse service — 78% of the calls incoming to CRA are not getting answered.

For all these reasons, Justin Trudeau has promised a major overhaul of the tax department.  To start with, new performance standards for CRA services will be established to raise the bar, measure results and report publicly.  This must apply urgently to the quality of correspondence and the accessibility of the call centre.

Our aim will be the achievement of operating practices that treat taxpayers as “clients”.  For example, where the department notices that someone is entitled to a benefit or deduction which they are not actually receiving, they should pro-actively contact that taxpayer to let them know.

CRA could also offer to file routine tax returns for lower income Canadians and those on fixed incomes when their financial situations remain largely unchanged from previous years.  There could be more support for Canadians who want to file their returns on-line with no paper forms.

Greater efforts should be made to go after international tax evasion.  The CRA should halt its partisan harassment of charities.  And the government should clarify the rules on charities to reaffirm the important role that non-governmental organizations can and should play in the development of public policies.

The trouble at CRA is just one aspect of the brokenness that Stephen Harper has inflicted upon Canada.  For a more comprehensive look at Justin Trudeau’s plan for fair and open government, go to:

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