Keynote Speech by Minister Lebouthillier: CRA service transformation town hall

Speech

Ottawa
October 29, 2018

Check against delivery

Hello everyone.

Thank you, Commissioner, for your presentation. I would also like to thank all the employees who are with us for this meeting.

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning and to discuss a subject that is particularly close to my heart. A subject that is a key part of my mandate letter: improving the services offered to our clients, Canadians.

As you can see, the room is filled with people from all levels of the Agency. Whether you are a manager, an auditor, an analyst, an assistant commissioner, or a call centre agent, we are a team, and service must be part of your priorities.

Why? Because it is with your ideas and your involvement that we will make a real difference, in the long run, in the lives of Canadians.

I must admit that the task that we have been tackling for the last three years is not easy. After all, we are the Agency responsible for applying the tax laws.

We work in a strict framework where privacy protection is vital to maintaining the trust of Canadians. We are the ones who ensure that, at the end of the line, everyone pays their fair share for everyone's benefit.

That is why our clients, because of the nature of their interactions with us, can sometimes experience frustration.

Frustration due to overly long wait times to obtain a refund. Frustration because they received incomplete, contradictory or overly complex information. Frustration because they have a feeling of unfairness. Frustration because they have the impression that our service standards serve the interests of the Agency, not theirs.

It is when they have the impression that they are trapped in an administrative maze that Canadians perceive the Agency as an intimidating organization—an organization that lacks empathy.

If there is one thing that is clear to me, in everything I undertake as Minister of National Revenue, it is that Canadians are not numbers. And I want that to be reflected in the service experience of everyone who deals with the Agency.

Since taking office, I have visited Agency offices in all the provinces and territories. Large centres such as Sudbury and Shawinigan. And smaller ones such as Bathurst, Rouyn-Noranda and Rimouski.

If I have confidence in our ability to outdo ourselves, it is because everywhere I went, I met dedicated, passionate people.

During my round-table meetings with the employees, one question came up often: Madam Minister, what do you mean by service?

I always had the same answer to that question. In all your interactions, talk to the people as you would like to be talked to; listen to the people as you would like to be listened to; and learn to adapt to the situation with which you are dealing.

When I went to Saskatoon this summer, I met some Agency employees who worked closely with the community of Humboldt. We all remember the terrible accident that led to the death of 16 people associated with the Humboldt Broncos team—an accident that profoundly touched Canadians.

Aware of the shock the families and those close to the victims were dealing with, the Agency employees implemented special measures to avoid adding an additional burden. While following the rules, they found the means to adapt to the situation they were facing.

There are thousands of stories at the Agency like the one in Humboldt. Whether it be a flood victim in New Brunswick, a parent who just lost a child, or a single mother who needs a bit more time to find and send the documents we have requested, there is always a way to implement new ways of doing things, adapted to the different clienteles with whom we work. We need to stay human.

***

The good news is that more than ever, the Agency is listening to Canadians. I can assure you that it will continue to do so through its new service model.

The concrete improvements that we have put in place during the past three years are the fruit of numerous public consultations conducted on all fronts, and with all stakeholders: individuals, businesses and professionals.

More than ever, the Agency is listening to Canadians, and it will continue to do so through its new service model.

Already, the results are evident.

We have considerably simplified the letters that we send to Canadians.

We are going to launch a new telephone system to respond faster and more clearly to the millions of Canadians who call us each year.

Through total annual and permanent investments of 13 million dollars, announced in the budget of 2016 and the budget of 2018, our government quadrupled funding for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program.

Last year, 17,700 volunteers prepared more than 785,000 returns as part of this program that enables the most vulnerable people to have access to the credits and benefits to which they are entitled.

We have reinstated mailings of paper tax packages to nearly two million Canadians, often elderly persons, who will no longer have to go anywhere to meet their tax obligations.

We have launched the "File My Return" service and invited 950,000 people to automatically complete their tax return by telephone.

We have recently announced the opening of three new corporate service centres for northern communities, because we know that the people of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut face particular challenges related to their remoteness.

We are reviewing how we can improve the Agency's processes in administering the Disability Tax Credit by reinstating the Disability Advisory Committee.

In early 2019, we will receive recommendations that will make a real difference in these people's lives.

***

Let me conclude by saying that in all my decisions, Canadians' expectations and needs came first because I took the time to listen to them. And I also took the time to listen to you.

That being said, as in any continuous improvement process, we must acknowledge that we are not perfect and that we can do better.

This morning, I have the pleasure of sharing the stage for the first time with Mireille Laroche, the Canada Revenue Agency's Chief Service Officer, a position that we recently created to better guide the deployment of this new service culture.

This position is a solid cornerstone that will strengthen the process and ensure continuous improvement of services for years to come.

I congratulate Ms. Laroche on her appointment. With her team, she will drive the transformation of Agency services in all business lines. Already I can tell you that the transformation of services will rest on three key foundations: client, consultation and creativity.

Client, because we have to think about our programs and services based on Canadians' needs, not on our business requirements.

Consultation, because it gives us a better understanding of the realities of individuals and businesses that interact with us.

Lastly, creativity, because it allows us to find solutions to the complex problems that we deal with.

I would like to conclude by thanking you sincerely for your dedication and hard work. It is a pleasure to work with you. You have my trust. I know that you are committed to helping Canadians, at all levels of the Agency.

I now give the floor to Mireille Laroche, who will give you even more details on the next steps in the deployment of our new service model.

Thank you.

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