Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Colleagues, yesterday we saw another example of how the Canada Revenue Agency tries to mislead Canadians, and there have been numerous examples over the years. It must be very disheartening for the conscientious employees of the department to have a management team that does this on a regular basis and somehow thinks it’s useful.
Yesterday, the Auditor General found out that the CRA has been claiming for a number of years that 90 per cent of calls to their centre are answered within the two-minute time frame. What he found out after a detailed investigation is that the figure is actually 34 per cent, because they either hang up on you or divert you to an automatic system, so people have to call back.
Last week, we had the CRA saying they invested $1 billion, which is the amount the government had given them. We found out they spent less than $40 million. They talk about new investment units, none of which have added any dollars or just consolidation of what they have.
Earlier today, I introduced a bill that will require the Canada Revenue Agency to give the Parliamentary Budget Officer the information he needs to calculate the tax gap, which I’ve been asking the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do for five years. Numerous countries around the world do it.
Why won’t the government simply instruct the CRA to cooperate with the Parliamentary Budget Officer, follow the law, give the raw data and let Canadians know the truth of what the agency is doing or not doing?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and for his ongoing work on these matters. I look forward to reading this bill, and I hope we can have an early debate.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: I understand there is a long list, but I will be brief today.
Not only is the leadership of the CRA misleading Canadians, the agency management lacks common sense. We found out earlier this year, for example, that the revenue agency required people who are in abusive relationships and who have been moved to shelters, predominantly women with children, in order to qualify for the Canada Child Benefit, to get their abuser to co-sign the form.
Has that been changed?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for raising this matter. Let me confirm that. My understanding is that it has changed, but I will confirm. I don’t want to mislead the chamber.