Building relationships in northern communities

In 2019, Lionel Holm accepted an assignment to the Northern Service Centre in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. He helped with the opening of the centre. From the start, Lionel has been focused on making the Liaison Officer Program more available for northern Canadians.

The Liaison Officer service supports new small businesses and self-employed individuals by helping them to accurately file their returns for income tax, as well as goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax. They also help business owners avoid and correct the most common errors. Through this program, officers provide tools, information, and support to help businesses manage their tax matters correctly from the start.

Lionel realized it would be difficult to operate the program as usual. Most often, a liaison officer gets in touch with local businesses by sending a letter to introduce the program. Lionel understood that this approach might not work in the North. Mail delivery can take longer and Lionel had seen that there was a low response rate from businesses who received such letters.

Lionel determined that the best approach was to establish strong relationships within the community, including with local businesses and government representatives. That way people would get to know him. To get started, Lionel reached out to trusted local businesses and community leaders. They helped him host Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) workshops for businesses in each community. Over time, Lionel was able to build connections and get a foot in the door with those businesses. “I made it known that I was [there] to help,” Lionel states. “My services reinforced bonds and connections with the CRA and northern Canadians.” These relationships would prove invaluable for what would come next.

During the pandemic, Lionel continued to assist many Canadians in accessing emergency benefits offered by the federal government—but this time, virtually. “I knew how important it was that business owners knew about the emergency benefits, where to find information about them, and to understand whether or not they qualified for the support,” said Lionel.

With an awareness of the community around him, Lionel was able to come up with new ways to deliver the Liaison Officer Program in the North. He stepped up and was happy to help provide Canadians with support during tough times. Lionel added he’s “… never been more proud to be a public servant.”

For Canadian owners of small businesses or those with self-employment income, it’s easy to set up a virtual meeting or phone call with a liaison officer. Visit this site to learn more

This story first appeared as part of a series to celebrate Small Business Week, 2021. It marks a time when small and medium businesses fought so hard to manage the circumstances of the pandemic, and the employees of the Canada Revenue Agency came together to deliver the tools and services that would help these businesses during these challenging times.

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