Minister Lebouthillier remarks: first meeting of the Disability Advisory Committee

Speech

Hello everyone,

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to welcome you today to this first meeting of the Disability Advisory Committee.

I thank each of you warmly for agreeing to sit on this volunteer committee. I also welcome our two co-chairs, Mr. Frank Vermaeten and Dr. Karen Cohen.

This committee is very important to me.

It is also very important to the Canada Revenue Agency, but it is crucial to thousands of Canadians and their families who live every day with a physical or mental disability or an incurable illness.

The varied expertise you are sharing around this table will help the Agency better serve persons with disabilities so that they can receive the credits and benefits they are entitled to.

This fall, issues were raised regarding the application and interpretation of the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit.

An update to the clarification letter sent to health professionals is the source of this debate.

This update had unintended consequences and for this, I offered my most sincere apologies.

As we begin this new year together, I think it is important to re-establish constructive dialogue between all parties.

The ultimate goal of the committee will be to listen to the viewpoints of persons with disabilities to better understand the challenges they face so that we can improve the administration of all tax measures, as set out in the Income Tax Act.

I can assure you that you have my undivided attention and that of the Agency, which is firmly resolved to do better.

We will work together in a spirit of transparency.

Transparency in terms of our objectives, but also complete transparency with respect to the data the Agency has on the topic.

To this end, I have asked that the most recent data table on the disability tax credit be shared with you today. Note that this data will also be available to Canadians on the Government of Canada website.

There is immense expertise around this table.

Together you represent the interests of persons with disabilities across Canada. You are specialists in your professions, your communities or in the groups that you represent.

Nonetheless, as part of your mandate, I encourage you to adopt a panoramic vision—a 360-degree approach—of what persons living with disabilities or illnesses in Canada go through, no matter what the type of disability or illness they may have.

In my opinion, we have to prioritize this approach to ensure fairness for all persons with disabilities, and more broadly, for all Canadians.

And to judge the fairness of a tax measure, we have to fall back on the law, which applies equally to everyone, as I am sure you will agree.

This means taking into account the role of the Agency, which is to enforce and administer federal tax laws, and my mandate as Minister of National Revenue, which in part consists in improving the services that the Agency offers to Canadians.

To support you in your task, you will find that the Canada Revenue Agency has a dedicated, competent and detail-oriented staff.

I can also assure you that the Agency sets no performance indicators, quotas or restrictive measures to limit the number of applications for credits or benefits for persons with disabilities.

Quite the opposite. We want everyone who is entitled to credits and benefits to receive them. We want to hear from you how we can improve our administrative practices, and enhance the quality of our services and the delivery of credits and benefits for persons with disabilities.

In conclusion, know that I am with you in that mission. You are aware of my background as a social worker. All my life I have fought for the most vulnerable. Like you, I am sensitive to the situation of persons with disabilities, and to the situation of their families and caregivers.
I now turn the floor to your two co-chairs. Thank you once again for agreeing to sit on this committee.

I eagerly await your recommendations.

I wish you productive work, and I look forward to reading your first report.


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