Letter to Minister Lebouthillier

I am writing to bring to your attention a serious concern in my riding – the erosion of client services at the Canada Revenue Agency.

March 14, 2017

Hon. Diane Lebouthillier
Minister of National Revenue
7th Floor, 555 MacKenzie Avenue
Ottawa ON  K1A 0L5

 

Dear Minister,

I am writing to bring to your attention a serious concern in my riding – the erosion of client services at the Canada Revenue Agency.

The lack of a service counter at our local CRA office is a hardship that I hear about often from my constituents.  In fact, my Saskatoon staff members are inundated with inquiries from frustrated constituents who cannot get a satisfactory level of client service from CRA.

As you may know, the local CRA offices across Canada closed their doors to the public several years ago. This forces all individuals who require CRA information or forms to either phone a CRA toll free number or go to the CRA website.  I hear from many constituents that this is very inconvenient and the wait times on the CRA toll free number are excessive. My staff have even been told that during peak CRA calling times many constituent calls are disconnected (the line goes dead) without even being asked to leave a message. This is very confusing, especially for seniors.

While some Canadians may prefer to file their taxes online, there are many, especially seniors, who prefer to file a paper tax return.  Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to obtain the paper returns.  I am told that they are distributed in January to postal service outlets, but constituents have informed me that within weeks, many post offices have no paper returns left.

When the postal outlets attempt to obtain more, they are told by CRA that no more paper returns will be supplied to their outlets. Many individuals are left scrambling for these paper returns and many try going to different postal outlet locations across the city trying to access these paper returns. The only other option available to these individuals is to either phone and ask CRA to mail the paper return to them, or print everything from the website at their own expense.  For many seniors, printing paper returns from a website is not an option.

Minister, I’m sure you will agree with me that many Canadians are not able to (for a variety of reasons) access government services online.  As they are taxpayers, it would only seem reasonable that they be afforded a basic level of service when they need it - especially when filing their income tax returns.

In the words of one of the residents of Saskatoon West, “Why are we no longer receiving a reasonable level of counter service from CRA?”

I am certain that this frustration is being felt across the country.  It is unfair and unacceptable, in my opinion, that federal government agencies such as CRA close their service counters to Canadians, and that many Canadians now have nowhere else to take their CRA issues and complaints, other than to their local MP offices.

A further concern is that in many instances, the CRA information that is provided to MPs’ staff is inaccurate or incomplete, resulting in unnecessary delays, and further frustration.  In some cases, constituents have to jump through many levels of seemingly unreasonable bureaucracy before their CRA issue/complaint can be satisfactorily resolved.

Minister, I would like to request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the current level of service that CRA is providing to Canadians and to my MP office.

My staff and I are at your disposal, Minister, should you require further details. I can confidently reassure you that many, many residents of Saskatoon would welcome the re-opening of a CRA service counter in our community.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Sheri Benson, MP
Saskatoon West

Cc:  Pierre-Luc Dusseault, MP, NDP Critic for National Revenue