Evidence of meeting #123 for Finance in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was cra.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Josette Roussel  Senior Nurse Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association
Kimberley Hanson  Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada
Steve Dolson  Chair of the Board, Gay Lea Foods Cooperative Ltd.
Gavin Thompson  Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Molson Coors Brewing Company
Victoria Lennox  Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Startup Canada
Karen Cooper  Drache Aptowitzer LLP, As an Individual
Michael Robinson  Q.C., As an Individual
James Bradley  Chief Executive Officer, Amalgamated Dairies Limited
Alison Thompson  Chair of the Board, Canadian Geothermal Energy Association
Philip Cross  Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

I know, but that's the testimony. I'm trying to make sure that I write down the right numbers.

4:30 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

By all means. I want to be clear. I never said that I had scientific numbers. I wish I had them. I filed an ATIP request in early August asking for these hard numbers from the CRA. I am saying that we are seeing an alarming trend, a massive decline in the number of people who are getting approved. Based on all the sources of data that I previously shared with you, I can point to a handful of people—maybe five—in the past six months who were approved, and I can point to a handful in the preceding six months who were not. I am saying that the world has turned upside down for people with diabetes who are applying for this tax credit. I don't know what the exact numbers are. I wish I did. The pattern is the point.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

I guess it's the testimony then that 80% is really not something that this committee can really quantify at this time. I'm curious about the amounts. Has the number of applications for people who have never previously applied for the disability tax credit increased? I also know there has been an increase in the number of promoters or companies that target individuals. Actually the previous government had introduced legislation to set a cap on how much these promoters could.... Basically they collect a part of the disability tax credit, up to 35% to 40% of that $1,500 you spoke about. I'm curious whether the promoters have actually created an increase in the number of applications. Of the people in the last year who applied, how many had never applied before? Is it possible that the increase in rejections is due to these promoters targeting people who never thought they could apply, and now they've applied and maybe they don't meet the qualifications. I'm just trying to figure out where this change is coming from.

4:30 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

That's an excellent question. In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of promoters, companies that help people apply for the DTC on a fee-for-service basis. A few of them were charging egregious amounts and their fees had to be capped. The majority don't charge that much. I would liken their services to those of an H&R Block. I file my own taxes, but other people choose to pay for that service to be performed, and I think that's a free market right. So I'm not so concerned personally with what they charge.

They did cause an increase in the number of people becoming aware of the program and applying for the program, and that is certainly the cause of the increase in numbers of applicants. However, I want to be very, very clear in saying two things. First of all, the CRA has maintained to us consistently throughout our dialogue that it wants more Canadians who are eligible for the DTC to be accessing it. So I don't understand why there would be a problem with promoters helping Canadians who are eligible to know about the program, to work with their legitimate licensed medical professionals to be certified for it, and to apply for it. That's thing one.

Thing two is that I have been very careful to confirm that the pattern we were seeing was the same for the general population who were applying on their own behalf as it was for the population who were applying for the DTC with the support of promoters. I can confirm for you absolutely unequivocally that it was. In fact, if anything, those applying on their own were disallowed more often than were those applying through promoters.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is your last question, because you're overtime, but I've let everyone go over today.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

I guess until we have the numbers, we'll have to wait and see.

My last question is for the Canadian Nurses Association. I know you touched on it in your testimony, but in terms of the ability of rural communities to use nurse practitioners, can you maybe identify the rural component and why this matters so much in terms of your lesser access to doctors to fill out these forms?

4:35 p.m.

Senior Nurse Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Strategy, Canadian Nurses Association

Josette Roussel

Of course. We have over 600 first nations communities that are staffed mainly by nurses and nurse practitioners. This will meet the needs of rural communities. Of course, we have been working closely with the Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada and they have rural nurses as members, and have been promoting this as an issue.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell Liberal Pickering—Uxbridge, ON

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you all.

Mr. Kmiec.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm happy to continue on the disability tax credit.

You have said that you are doing an access to information request to get information on how many people are being refused, how many people have applied. Does the Canada Revenue Agency have this information?

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

They have a part of this information. As I understand it, the way they gather information on the rates of applications, approvals, and denials is by category of application. The members of this committee will know better than I that there are a number of categories under which you can apply for the disability tax credit, one of which is life-sustaining therapy. That's the most pertinent one.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

So the government could just release what information they do have instead of making you do an access to information request.

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

We had asked them directly before we submitted the ATIP.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

And what did they say?

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

They said that they couldn't provide us with it.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

And what was the reason?

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

It was because they didn't track information by diagnosis; they tracked only by category of application. I said, “Okay, fine, give me the numbers for everybody who applied under life-sustaining therapy, and we'll just see if there's a pattern in that,” understanding that people with other conditions also apply under there. I still haven't received that information. I made that ATIP request in August.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Two years ago the Liberal government promised that they would proactively inform people of what benefits they were entitled to. Now they've obviously broken that promise. The previous line of questioning was attacking people who facilitate for others, people who may not understand the tax code—and I'm looking at a 300 plus-page budget document here—well enough to do their taxes themselves.

Do you think that's right?

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

I really don't. I think frankly that the concerns that have been expressed about promoters are a red herring. I think that it is fully reasonable to expect that some people would find the process opaque. I am spending half of my time now trying to understand just one tiny portion of the application process for a DTC, and it's pretty tough.

So I think that blaming this on the promoters is a red herring for the real issue, and it is at odds with the statements, as you point out, that we want more Canadians to be able to access this program.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

I have here an email from a tax specialist who lives in my riding and who helps people apply for the disability tax credit. It's a service they provide. I've been told that the refund timelines have also been extended overtime. They went from someone being able to get a refund in two weeks to the CRA now being quoted as saying that it will take 25 weeks. Has that been the experience of the people who communicate with you?

4:35 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

It's often even worse. Whereas it used to be three or four weeks, now it's over 40 weeks that most people are being quoted for a response to their application, so much so that I'm aware of one promoter who used to employ 30 people, last year, to provide support for Canadians accessing this program, under multiple illnesses, but they are actually shuttering their business because they can't have a business that's dependent on approval times and review times that have lengthened so much, particularly when that's 40 weeks just to get the first set of questions sent to your doctor, and then you go back into the queue and wait again.

So it's clear that the CRA is overwhelmed with the workflow, and that's why I'm supportive of the idea of more nurses being hired to help with that. I think, though, that only helps with this particular problem, and this problem is quite unique. I can't say that strongly enough. I work in a group that provides support to people applying for the DTC, and tries to ensure fairness under multiple different conditions, and nobody's being targeted the way that people with diabetes are.

So if those nurses don't also get a deep education in what it takes to manage type 1, then they are not going to help.

November 7th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

I've been talking to Steve back and forth for quite a while now, specifically on this. In this same email, he says there are two issues.

One is the initial application for the DTC, hearing back from the CRA; and the second part is actually receiving the refund. In the small number of cases that he says are still being approved for people—these are repeat cases, people who have received them year after year after year. He's saying that now they're quoting him 25 weeks just to get the refund the CRA has already approved, 25 weeks of withholding an amount of cash, a tax-free loan to the government, that the person is eligible for.

Is that the same thing you're hearing from your members? Are they making a distinction between the two, and are the timelines lengthening both on the application form—you said yes—but then also on the refund component of the DTC?

4:40 p.m.

Director, Federal Affairs, Government Relations and Public Policy, Diabetes Canada

Kimberley Hanson

I've heard a lot more about the lengthening of the time that's being taken to review the applications. I have also heard complaints that the refunds are taking much longer.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you all.

Mr. McLeod.