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Liberal MP for Guelph (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 43.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Service Canada Mandate Expansion Act June 12th, 2014

moved that Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak on my private member's Bill C-247, An Act to expand the mandate of Service Canada in respect of the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident. I am equally delighted that the member for Avalon agreed to second my bill.

If passed, the Service Canada mandate expansion act would require the Minister of Employment and Social Development to implement all measures necessary to establish Service Canada as the single point of contact for the Government of Canada in respect of all matters relating to the death of a Canadian citizen or a Canadian resident.

We must improve the system that presently exists for officially notifying the federal government of the death of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. The notification process must be made easier. It must be streamlined for the benefit of Canadians and, frankly, for the benefit of efficiency in government.

Under the current system, following a death, a bereaved Canadian may have to contact a multitude of federal government departments and send numerous death notifications, because there is no single point of contact for the information to be processed. This can be a very painful, tedious, and sometimes confusing task for a grieving individual who must repeat the same information to different government departments. As well, each federal government department can have different documentation requirements to establish proof of death.

As parliamentarians, we need to provide relief to grieving seniors, survivors, caregivers, and estate representatives, who are responsible for the settling of obligations of a deceased with the Government of Canada.

It is essential that we deal with the issue of bereavement in a professional and compassionate way. Bill C-247 will improve a federal government service and reduce the burden on Canadians during a difficult life transition.

I would like to outline some examples of the range of possible types of contacts to explain the justification for Bill C-247.

According to the Service Canada website, the department must be contacted with the notification of date of death when an old age security and Canada pension plan beneficiary passes away. Service Canada would also have to be contacted for the application of any survivor benefits.

If the deceased was receiving employment insurance benefits before his or her death, the legal representative must complete a form to cancel the benefits. If the deceased person had not applied for EI benefits to which they were entitled, the legal representative may apply for the benefits in the name of the deceased person. If a deceased individual had lived in Canada and in another country, their survivor could be eligible to apply for pension and benefits because of a social security agreement.

Besides contacting Service Canada, a legal representative would also have to make a separate effort to contact the Canada Revenue Agency to provide a deceased's date of death. In addition, the estate is responsible for the completion of final tax returns and making arrangements to stop payments on any GST or HST credits.

If the deceased was receiving the Canada child tax benefit, the universal child care benefit, or the working income tax benefit, those benefits must be stopped, and if applicable, survivor benefits can be applied for.

If the deceased was a Canadian veteran, Veterans Affairs should also be contacted for the notification and cancellation of benefits and the application for survivor benefits. These benefits may include the benefits for survivors of disability pension recipients, the death benefit, the earnings lost benefit for survivors or children, and the supplementary retirement benefit, to name just a few.

If the deceased had a valid Canadian passport, a legal representative should contact Passport Canada to return the document by mail to the Passport Canada program for cancellation. This transaction would have to include a letter with a copy of the death certificate, indicating if the cancelled passport should be destroyed or returned.

If the deceased was a member of the public service pension plan, the Government of Canada Pension Centre under the Department of Public Works and Government Services would have to be contacted immediately for any survivor lump sum, an ongoing pension, and one-time supplementary death benefits.

If the deceased possessed a Canadian citizenship certificate or a permanent resident card, the legal representative must send a letter enclosing the citizenship certificate or PR card and a photocopy of the death certificate, funeral home notice, or newspaper report to the case processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

If a deceased owned a firearm, the RCMP may also have to be contacted in order to make any necessary transfers. Documentation must be submitted to confirm that the registered owner is deceased and that the new owner is eligible to acquire and possess the firearm.

If a deceased was a fisher in possession of a licence from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the department would have to be notified and the transfer of the licence would have to be arranged.

Respecting social insurance numbers, informing Service Canada of a death reduces the possibility of anyone fraudulently using a SIN. However, there are different rules depending on which province or territory in which an individual lives. Individuals are required to inform Service Canada of the death of a family member if the death occurred in Saskatchewan, the territories, or outside Canada, but not if they are from another province, where it is sent automatically from provincial vital statistics agencies.

Death notifications therefore are not yet consistent throughout Canada. As well, this notification does not successfully trigger the series of responses intended by my legislation.

It is clear with the examples I have raised that Canadians are faced with a labyrinth of possible contacts and different requirements for a death notification to the Government of Canada.

As a lawyer, I was often asked to do this work on behalf of estates because of the confusion and frustration estate executors faced when executing their duties. As well, the process is made even more difficult because the information that is provided on the Service Canada website is not comprehensive. Bereaved Canadians should not have to spend hours online searching for information or have to call the department's call centre to get information. For example, that is the case with the cancelling of Citizenship and Immigration identification.

The creation of one point of contact at Service Canada would remove the guesswork for survivors and estate administrators who may not be fully aware of the deceased's obligations to the federal government. A first contact to Service Canada would trigger a notification process to all relevant departments, which would then communicate to the deceased's estate representatives the responsibilities for the cancellation of benefits, the return of identification documents, and access to any survivor benefits.

Bill C-247 would also reduce the costs of the administration of estates, making it good consumer legislation as well. In fact, the United Kingdom already has the “Tell Us Once” registration process. France has the online service portal “Mon Service Public” for death notifications.

I would like to take a moment to discuss Service Canada and why it is a natural fit to serve as the single point of contact for the notification of a death to the federal government.

Service Canada, located within the Department of Employment and Social Development, helps Canadians access a range of federal government services and benefits. It was created to improve the delivery of those services to its citizens. It is a multi-channel delivery network whose charter is to provide Canadians with one-stop, easy-to-access, personalized service and to bring Government of Canada services together in a single service delivery network. It was created within the former HRSDC to serve as a single window for Canadians to access government programs and services. Bill C-247 is a practical expansion of Service Canada's mandate and the logical choice for bereavement reporting.

I would like to discuss the fall 2013 Auditor General's report. In chapter 2, titled “Access to Online Services”, the AG examined whether the online services offered by federal organizations were client focused and supported by service delivery strategies with defined and measured benefits. It also examined whether there was a Government of Canada strategy for delivering online services and an integrated service delivery among major partners. The report had a number of findings that are relevant to Bill C-247, and it is clear the AG recognized the issues that I have discussed so far.

First, the AG found that the integration of service delivery and the sharing of information among departments were limited. Individuals must work with departments separately, which frequently requires them to provide the same information multiple times.

Second, the Auditor General found that there was no government-wide strategy to guide departments on how online services should be delivered and not all departments had developed integrated service delivery strategies that had identified key factors such as cost, benefits, and consideration of client expectations. This has limited the opportunity for the government to identify and move toward cost-effective service delivery alternatives that address the expectations of Canadians.

With regard to the notification of death, the Auditor General found that the federal government did not coordinate information. Page 12 of the report states:

When a death occurs...someone must contact each department separately and follow different processes, as this information is not generally shared and departments do not offer the ability to do this online. This makes it difficult for users who may be trying to stop the payment of certain benefits to prevent overpayments...while trying to apply for others...

The AG also found that the instructions provided on the Service Canada website about what to do for certain life events was not complete. Thus, Canadians following the instructions provided by Service Canada on its website may not do everything that they are required to do. He noted:

—departments are focused on delivering the statutory programs and mandates for which they are accountable. There is no incentive for departments to share information.

I would like to review some of the Conservative government's written priorities.

When the 2014-15 reports on plans and priorities for Employment and Social Development Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat are examined, we will see that Bill C-247 fits into the strategic goals outlined by the federal government.

In the Minister of Employment and Social Development's message, he stated:

ESDC will focus on achieving service excellence for Canadians by further modernizing service delivery, focusing on its core business priorities and increasing the use of technology. Through Service Canada, [the government] will ensure that Canadians quickly receive the benefits to which they are entitled and access to a wide range of programs and services.

On page 61, of the ESDC report, it states:

Service Canada will continue to work with other departments so that Canadians can better access more Government of Canada services through Service Canada.

In the RPP for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the president's message states:

Canadians need and deserve a public service that is equipped to deliver modern, cost effective and responsive programs and services...we will continue to streamline government operations.

For the period 2014-2017, the report states that the Secretariat will:

—promote client-centred service...efficiency through a whole-of-government approach to service delivery...

With regard to the legislative process, I am hopeful that the bill will receive unanimous support from all parliamentarians to pass second reading and go to committee for review. I would like MPs to hear public servants on how they would implement this bill and whether they feel that one year, as stipulated in the legislation, is enough time to implement the required changes. If they feel that the time frame is too difficult, I am certainly open to a reasonable amendment on what would be an appropriate implementation time frame. As well, the bill would have to be amended to change the ministry named in the legislation, as Bill C-247 was introduced before the name change of the department.

I would also like to hear from departmental officials on what their estimates are of the costs to the federal government for overpayments due to improper death notifications, as well as how much the government currently spends to retrieve benefit overpayments. I am hopeful that this legislation could potentially save the government millions of dollars after its implementation. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that the “Tell Us Once” service would save the government over $300 million over ten years.

I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude.

First, I thank the former Liberal member of Parliament for Richmond Hill, Bryon Wilfert. Mr. Wilfert is the original author of this legislation.

Second, I would like to thank the Funeral Service Association of Canada, the Bereavement Ontario Network, Hospice Palliative Care Ontario and Robert Berry from the law firm Miller Thomson for their wonderful letters of support.

This legislation is a non-partisan bill that would create a practical approach to assisting Canadians with their obligations to the Government of Canada. Eighty per cent of care given to ailing seniors is given by their loved ones. Let us help those caregivers who are faced with the obligations of settling loved ones' affairs after they have passed away.

In conclusion, I believe that Canadians expect their governments to make efforts to improve services for citizens. They do not want a system built around individual programs and services, each unique and belonging to its own department. Regulation within the federal bureaucracy must be changed in order to reduce duplication and costs, and free up resources for improved public service delivery. Administrative simplification, new technology and e-government can be powerful vehicles for modernization.

Bill C-247 would provide our great country with the opportunity to be a model to the world for service excellence. As parliamentarians, we should want to make that happen.

Citizenship and Immigration June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's degrading comments yesterday asserted that immigrants who arrived in Canada after 1977 are less loyal and less faithful to Canadian values.

In essence, he is saying immigrants from India, China, the Philippines, Europe, and the rest of the world, Canada's nation-builders, are a lower class of Canadian citizens.

We know the Prime Minister agrees with his minister's despicable position, but how many other Conservatives secretly harbour the feeling that they are more Canadian than the new Canadians who arrived after 1977?

Citizenship and Immigration June 12th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's degrading comments yesterday asserted that immigrants who—

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals vote no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals vote no.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party agrees to apply the vote and shall be voting against the motion.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party shall be applying the vote and will be voting against the motion.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party agrees to apply the vote and shall be voting against the motion.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party agrees to apply the vote and shall also be voting against the motion.

Main Estimates, 2014-15 June 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party agrees to apply the vote and shall be voting against the motion.