Speaking up in the House about cuts to service at Kingston's local CRA office.
Today in the House I had the opportunity to rise in Question Period. My question and the minister’s response is here:
We also put out a press release as follows:
For immediate release
MP Ted Hsu challenges the Conservative government on cuts to Kingston’s Canada Revenue Agency
OTTAWA, September 19, 2012 – Today MP Ted Hsu (Kingston and the Islands) rose in the House of Commons to ask the Conservative government to explain how they will protect service levels given recent cuts to the local Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) office.
For the past two years, Chris McBride, a Public Health employee at Kingston’s Street Health Centre, has volunteered with the CRA to help his indigent clients file their taxes. This means that they are able to receive their GST rebate and the Trillium benefit, both of which contribute substantially to their quality of life and health.
In more difficult cases, Mr. McBride accompanies his client to an in-person appointment in the local CRA office. Some clients cannot pass the security test to obtain telephone service because they move many times a year and they don’t know the address they last filed from years ago. In many cases, the client is struggling with mental health issues.
But the Minister of National Revenue has decided that the office will no longer schedule in-person appointments. Hsu said: “this withdrawal of service by the Minister is ironic as local CRA agents in fact asked Mr. McBride – two years ago — to undertake this much-needed work.”
Hsu explains: “These clients are our most vulnerable citizens, and those most in need of these tax benefits. I am standing up to budgetary cuts that will further marginalize those most in need, and challenging the Conservative government that thinks it’s not their job to worry about these vulnerable people.”
Hsu asked in Question Period, “What has been prepared at CRA to protect the level of service to those most in need?”
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This story was covered in the Kingston Whig Standard the following day:
MP Cathy McLeod, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of National Revenue said in Question Period, October 2:
“In-person discussions with the agency and Canadians only accounted for 2.5% of the interactions. That said, there are people who will, for a variety of reasons, still need to interact with the CRA in a different manner. Canadians can be assured that the CRA will continue to offer alternatives for taxpayers.”
We’ll have to be vigilant about the level of service that is actually provided over the next year or so, especially the next tax season.