OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met this day at 9:30 a.m. to study Bill C-462, An Act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.

Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, this morning we begin our study of Bill C-462, An Act restricting the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.


This morning, we're very pleased to welcome Cheryl Gallant, who is the sponsor of this Bill C-462. She is a member of Parliament, representing the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. Ms. Gallant, I understand you have some brief opening remarks to explain the legislation to us. We will proceed with that, and then we often have a question and answer period following that.

Cheryl Gallant, Member of Parliament for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, sponsor of the bill: Very good; thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be here before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance with respect to my bill to restrict the fees charged by promoters of the Disability Tax Credit.

First what I'd like to do is to give you a little background and overview of the bill just in case everyone hasn't had the chance to read it thoroughly. The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit that is meant to reduce the income taxes a Canadian suffering from a disability has to pay. In order to qualify, there has to be a severe and prolonged disability, either physical, mental or both functions, and there is a maximum amount that can be claimed for the year.

Also, a caregiver can apply on behalf because, in many circumstances, a person suffering from a disability either does not have an income or is incapable thereof. It is available to the caregivers.

We have this Disability Tax Credit in recognition that Canadians living with disabilities have special challenges and added expenses.

They must, either all of the time or a substantial part of the time, be unable to perform one or more of the basic activities of daily living, even with medication or medical devices. Some of those aspects would include vision, hearing and eating.

There is a wide array of disabilities under the Disability Tax Credit, and that is largely why there is a great deal of interest in this.

For the average Canadian suffering from a disability who would apply for this credit, the maximum federal amount would have been approximately $7,300 in 2011. That would be a maximum of $7,300 that could be subtracted from their income to calculate the income tax due. That would have meant roughly a savings of $1,100 in that year.

A number of years ago, the federal government allowed the disability credits to be retroactive. So, instead of an annual amount of savings of $1,100, it grew to $10,000 to $15,000 if they qualified for a maximum of 10 years.

As a consequence of this, there were people who wanted to help assist those who may not be even know about the tax credit to apply for it. The experience has been, in a totally unregulated environment, that the fees can range from 10 per cent, 20 per cent and even 40 per cent of the Disability Tax Credit. The purpose of this bill is to set some restrictions.

Further to that, there can be instances — I've seen instances in my riding — where you have a disability tax promoter who has provided the service. Their fees have been taken off what the client receives, and then, subsequent to that, the CRA does an audit and then deems that the credit was not allowed. In that case, the client has to pay back the money, but they have great difficulty in finding the company who helped them out with the application to get the other 40 per cent, 20 per cent, 10 per cent back that was given to them. So that is why we're bringing forth the restriction.

Actually, more than $20 million is paid out to the Disability Tax Credit promoters each year, and this legislation will make better use of the taxpayers' investments by making sure that the money ends up where it belongs. This is the true purpose the bill: To ensure that the people for whom this tax credit is meant, Canadians living with disabilities, receive as much as possible.

So I thank the honourable senators for studying this bill, and I am open to your questions.

The Chair: Just as a point of clarification, Ms. Gallant, $20 million a year is the amount of tax that is not collected by the government as a result of this?

Ms. Gallant: Actually, the amount would be greater because it's more than $20 million paid out to Disability Tax Credit promoters, so, in addition to the fees paid out, there are the amounts given to reducing the incomes for the people suffering from disabilities.

The Chair: When you say "paid out," this is a tax credit. The person with the disability has to be paying some tax in order to get the money back.

Ms. Gallant: That's correct.

The Chair: This would be some of the money that was deducted at source that they get back by virtue of the tax credit. Am I understanding this correctly?

Ms. Gallant: Yes. It's not refundable, but, if they do owe tax, then the amount of tax they owe is reduced. If the person does not have an income, then a caregiver for the person can apply for this tax credit.

The Chair: That assumes the caregiver has taxes to pay.

Ms. Gallant: Precisely.

The Chair: Thank you.


Senator Hervieux-Payette: I sit on the Banking Committee, and we just finished our report on the Registered Disability Savings Plan program. A number of senators around the table today also sit on that committee.

My first comment is that the government should fix what is not working. It cannot have a tax credit on the one hand and a program that is hard to navigate on the other. Moreover, the government has not made it its business, as it must, to ensure that the program is easily navigable. At issue here are people with disabilities who require professional help — this is also true of the other legislation in question — and here you are before us with a private member’s bill.

Did the government actually advise you against simplification and developing a procedure that would be much easier to administrate? You are making it more difficult to collect fees, but that does not fix the problem. The process will remain complicated. There is nothing easy about it. I was also wondering whether it was a refundable tax credit or a tax credit tied to income?


Ms. Gallant: First, I will answer your last question. It is a non-refundable tax credit. To answer your further concern with regard to the complexity, I'd like to point out that for a person suffering from a disability, part of the form is two pages long. The questions include first name and initial, last name, gender, information about the person claiming the amount, and details about the regular and consistent support provided for food. Those are the types of questions asked of someone who is a caregiver. In terms of the personal declaration about the disability, they'd be asked whether there is vision impairment, but the majority of the form is a medical form that has to be completed by a medical professional.

What is required of the claimant is minimal. The challenge is that many people who are in the most vulnerable income level don't regularly have an accountant or a bookkeeper to file their tax returns. This form has to be completed well in advance of the time that you have to submit your tax return. Even seasonal tax preparers who pop around the end of the year or the beginning of a new year in time for the deadline would not necessarily know to have this form completed, especially if the disability is not apparent. They won't know to ask you to complete this form. Furthermore, by the time the deadline roles around for the annual tax return, it’s too late to apply on the current year's return.

We're not setting up an obstacle as it's fairly simple to complete. In fact, the staff of many members of Parliament will help a constituent to complete this. The writing is fairly small so people who are vision-impaired need help to read the questions being asked. We have some people who are unable to read because of vision impairment or other related disabilities. I hope that answers your question.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Not exactly, because they need to pay taxes to take advantage of the program. They could fill out the form and put it with their income tax return and the people at Revenue Canada could make the adjustment appropriately. I don't think Revenue Canada expects everybody to be an expert in government tax credits. For example, there is a tax credit of $75 for sports equipment if you have children. I suppose you have to send a piece of paper to prove you have bought new skates or skis or whatever. It is the same with this. Why not send this form with their income tax return? Why do we have to pay $20 million to people to help them with the form that should be validated by Revenue Canada? That means: Why the bill?

Ms. Gallant: As a consequence, with the tax reductions our government has put in place over the year that we have administered, thousands of people have been cut from having to pay income tax; so people don't necessarily have to pay income tax because their income doesn't reach that level.

In terms of why the government would not automatically send out this form, it would not make sense to send it out to everyone. We would not attach it to the annual return because the form has to be done in advance with a portion completed by a medical person and a certificate obtained from CRA. That certificate is attached to the annual return verifying that the person qualifies for the credit.

Senator Eaton: I think your bill deals mostly with consultants' fees. Am I correct?

Ms. Gallant: It deals with promoters of the Disability Tax Credit.

Senator Eaton: Fine. Do they get a fee regardless of the outcome?

Ms. Gallant: Not all promoters receive a fee regardless of the outcome.

Senator Eaton: With this proposal, do you believe that most people with these kinds of disabilities work? Do they get an income from work, or is it income from a workers' compensation board? Is it a government income, or is it because they work?

Ms. Gallant: For the people who receive an income, it would be a taxable income. Any income received that is taxable.

Senator Eaton: Either investment income or from their work.

Ms. Gallant: Correct.

Senator Eaton: Government programs are not counted.

Ms. Gallant: Any government incomes that are not taxable would not be qualified as income from which the tax credit would be deducted.

Senator Eaton: If I have a government income, some kind of pension, and I also have investment income, does the government income count as part of my total? Say I get $100,000 a year from different sources of income.

Ms. Gallant: Some government benefit incomes are taxable and some are non-taxable. If the income arising from a government were non-taxable, then the tax credit would not apply to that particular income.

Senator Eaton: Thank you.

Senator L. Smith: Ms. Gallant, to put this in perspective, how many disabled people apply for this tax credit each year? You talked about paying out $20 million to these promoters. So we can understand the perspective of this in terms of how many disabled people, what would be the total value of the tax credits? I'm hearing about the $20 million paid out to promoters of the program, but I'm trying to understand the context of it. Context is important to support the justification of why legislation would be created.

Ms. Gallant: I don't have the total amount paid out or the total amount applied to the Disability Tax Credit. I don't have an accurate figure on how many people apply, but it has been increasing substantially each year. This bill is in no way meant to discourage people from applying for the Disability Tax Credit. We want more Canadians who are suffering from disabilities to be applying. In fact, by virtue of having this bill raising awareness about the credit, it is hoped that more people will know about it and apply.

Senator L. Smith: As a suggestion that may be helpful to understand the context, what is your market? Because you may want to know how many people out there are disabled and have that opportunity. It would then help you promote the ability for the people to get the tax credit. I think it's important for our committee to understand the context of the size of the amount, the volume and the numbers so that we can just put it into perspective.

The Chair: Our researchers from the Library of Parliament indicate that, in 2013, the total amount of the Disability Tax Credit was $700 million.

Senator L. Smith: For disability.

The Chair: Disability Tax Credit.

Senator L. Smith: Do we have any numbers on how many have people have actually applied and are getting this benefit?

Senator Buth: I actually have the numbers. Canada Revenue Agency receives about 200,000 new Disability Tax Credit applications each year about, and 9,000 of these applications are received from taxpayers who use the service of a Disability Tax Credit promoter. Those are the people we are talking about.

The Chair: That was 9,000 out of how many total?

Senator Buth: The total was 200,000.

The Chair: Thank you. That was helpful to put that in context.

Senator Callbeck: Do you have any idea how many of those 200,000 that apply are accepted?

Senator Buth: I don't have that information.

The Chair: Is that important, Senator Callbeck? We could follow up on that with the Library of Parliament.

Senator Callbeck: It's of interest to me.

The Chair: If we could find out about that, we'll circulate that information to everyone.

Senator Callbeck: I want to come back to the refundable and non-refundable. The Caledon Institute has said that 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the potential target group actually get this disability credit. I'm all for this credit because it makes life a little bit easier for many disabled people, but I am concerned that it's not a refundable tax credit because the people who don't pay income tax have no access to this credit at all. Did you give that any thought when you were bringing in amendments here?

Ms. Gallant: That aspect goes beyond the scope of my bill. My objective was to ensure that those who do qualify for the tax credit receive as much as possible.

Senator Callbeck: I know it goes beyond the scope of your bill, but I was asking if that was something you thought about, or maybe you agree with the way it is. Do you?

Ms. Gallant: Well, that is an entirely separate policy decision. I would welcome any of my colleagues in the Senate or the House of Commons to put forth a proposal. At this point in time, the goal of the government is to get to a non-deficit position. Once we are doing better financially, then we can entertain some of these very important suggestions.

Senator Callbeck: It always has amazed me that the government has brought in so many non-refundable credits because for the people who need that money the most, there is no way of access to these credits at all because they are not paying income tax. Anyway, I recognize the fact that that's beyond what you are doing here.

It says a prohibition against charging or accepting more than the established maximum fee. Are you thinking here a maximum fee of a percentage or of setting a flat amount?

Ms. Gallant: I had thought about applying the same formula as we would to the different companies, like H&R Block. There is a set formula, but I felt that it would be better if we had a full consultation between the people of the groups and the individuals who benefit, Canadians with disabilities themselves and the promoters and the different professionals involved with tax preparation. By consulting, we would have a better formula or a flat rate that could be arrived at, depending on how much work is involved for each individual case.

Senator Callbeck: You've established offences and penalties for failure to comply. Can you distinguish the difference between the offences and the penalties?

Ms. Gallant: Yes. The penalty refers to the amount of overcharging according to the fee that is set. The promoter would have to return the overage that they charged. The offence is an added penalty, so it's actually punishment for incorrectly charging a fee that goes over the amount.

Senator Callbeck: Those two couldn't have been combined in any way, could they?

Ms. Gallant: They may have been combined. It was a matter of progressing through the bill and realizing that just simply returning the money, the money over and above what is allowed, was not sufficient. A penalty in addition to discourage such behaviour was required.

The Chair: Just for honourable senators’ reference, a penalty is referred to in clause 3(2), and a penalty is also referred to in clause 7. That's what Senator Callbeck was asking about.


Senator Bellemare: Thank you for being here, Ms. Gallant. I have two issues to discuss. The first is that the program, if I have understood correctly, mostly benefits seniors who have become disabled at some point. They may have multiple sclerosis or degenerative diseases for which they need assistance. Is that, generally speaking, your clientele?


Ms. Gallant: I really have not done an empirical analysis of who would benefit more. In fact, the parents of children living with disabilities have a higher amount that they can deduct from their taxable incomes than an adult. I did not conduct a survey that would be able to give you an accurate response.


Senator Bellemare: My question has to do with the Registered Disability Savings Plan program that Senator Hervieux-Payette referred to. The Banking Committee studied the program, and it was our understanding that it serves a somewhat younger clientele, that is, families with children who benefit from it more so than others do. So, to some degree, I have trouble understanding your tax credit.

My second question has to do with your formula of A less B plus C. How did you come up with that formula? Is it a standard formula for this kind of thing?


Ms. Gallant: That was a standard formula that the CRA has used in other calculations, but, as I said, when you actually go to apply the equation, it really is insufficient to provide enough of deterrence for the promoters to stop from incorrectly charging people.

Senator Buth: Thank you very much, Ms. Gallant, for being here. How did this issue come to your attention?

Ms. Gallant: A couple of ways. I go to the outlying areas of my region every summer. There was an individual whose son had qualified, but they had qualified and the subsequent payments to the son had stopped arriving. It turned out that the company was not a legitimate company. That was my first instance of trying to ensure that the application was redone and that the son was receiving the credit because it was substantial.

More recently, a tax promoter came to town and was targeting soldiers suffering from PTSD, so they were on the radio, in the newspapers, saying, "If you suffer from PTSD, you may qualify for $10,000 or $20,000." At that point, I put the finishing touches on and made sure that this bill went forth because the military and the veterans already have people who help them out with their taxes and ensure that they receive the benefits that they qualify for. It was as a consequence of their trying to take money from those who have served our country and who deserve more of whatever they qualify for, as opposed to having somebody feed off them.

Senator Buth: I'm sure there are companies that do have a reasonable rate, et cetera, but this bill is targeted, then, at those companies that are abusing the system or going after people who might be quite vulnerable.

Ms. Gallant: That's correct. So we have accountants; they are not targeted by this. Accountants have their own formula for charging. This does not include volunteers. A number of organizations help seniors with their income tax every year, and then they see, after having met first-hand with the client, that they may qualify for this credit. So they will complete the forms and, in the subsequent year or retroactively, apply for any credits that may have been due to them. The other aspect is the medical practitioners themselves because they complete the form on behalf of the client. They are not targeted by this either. They have their own set of fees.

This is only targeting the organizations that have no formula, no association, no restrictions whatsoever.

Senator Buth: We have received the bill from the House of Commons. What kind of support did you receive in the House of Commons for this bill?

Ms. Gallant: It was unanimous among all parties.

Senator Buth: Can you tell me how similar the restriction is? My understanding is that companies that fill out tax forms for people also have restrictions in terms of what they can charge people. Is your bill similar to that in terms of limiting what companies can charge people?

Ms. Gallant: In principle, yes. I did think about using that formula. As I mentioned before, I wanted to ensure that the full range of tax preparers, as well as the people who would benefit from the tax credit, had a chance to give input. On that basis, through the regulations, the formula will be set.

Senator Buth: I think you already mentioned that there will be consultation in terms of setting the rate?

Ms. Gallant: Yes.

Senator Buth: So the companies that are involved in helping people fill out the forms will be part of the consultation process?

Ms. Gallant: That is correct.

The Chair: Colleagues, we have five other witnesses after this particular session, and we have two witnesses left on this session. So, if we could move things along, that would be helpful because I know the other witnesses are here and ready to go.

Senator Merchant: My concern, first of all, is that people who qualify for this know about it. Can you tell me how people find out about this? Maybe these promoters are performing a function in that they have taken it upon themselves to — I don't know how they get the names — contact people. Maybe they're an important peg in the system. My second question is this: How do these promoters — not the regular accountants, but these other people — get paid? Do they rely on their clients to pay them, or do they receive the money and keep what they think is appropriate and give the rest to the disabled person? How does the system work right now?

Ms. Gallant: It is my understanding that the money goes to the actual company. They take off their fee, and then the remainder goes to the client.

In terms of promoting, how do we increase public awareness? Yes, in this case, the promoters do raise public awareness. If you are reading the news in the morning, you can see, on an Internet site, "You may qualify for $10,000. Do you have . . ." and there is a list of different maladies. So they're increasing awareness.

As far as government goes, in terms of purchasing advertising or putting commercials on TV, there has been opposition and outcry over our trying to promote the different measures that government is taking to make people aware of what is available, but we, as parliamentarians, with the communication tools we have, can increase awareness as well.

Senator Merchant: The total sum goes to the promoter, and he, in turn, turns the money over. That way, the promoters get paid a hundred per cent for their —

The Chair: We do have a number of promoters as a next round.

Senator Merchant: Maybe I'll wait, then.

The Chair: They probably could tell you how it works.

Senator Mockler: I agree 100 per cent with the intent of the bill based on the fact that we must have recipients; the more they have in their pockets, the better it is.

I have two questions. There are two ways of looking at regulations. One is a private member's bill, and the other one is amendments to the Income Tax Act. Why would you not go the avenue of amendments to the Income Tax Act?

Ms. Gallant: This was the most efficient, simplest, fastest way that it could be done, in my estimation.

Senator Mockler: My next question is, have you linked with Revenue Canada to appraise that mechanism that you are following now as a private member rather than amendments?

Ms. Gallant: I have spoken to the respective ministers of national revenue, and they're supportive of the way I have put forth this legislation.

The Chair: Colleagues, on your behalf, I would like to thank Member of the House of Commons Cheryl Gallant very much for being here. You are welcome to stay on, have a seat next to Senator Gerstein and hear the other comments that will be made. We will not be proceeding, in any event, with clause-by-clause consideration today. It's not our custom to proceed immediately clause by clause. I expect we will do that tomorrow evening at our meeting, subject to how we make out in the next round with all of the witnesses.

By video conference from Irricana, Alberta, which is new to me, we welcome Carmela Hutchison, President and Member at Large on the Executive Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. In Ottawa, we welcome Dr. Karen Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Psychological Association; Akiva Medjuck, President, National Benefit Authority; Dr. Paul Okorofsky, Director of Client Care and Partner, The Disability Benefit Group; and Shawn Anthony, Senior Manager, TaxWise Inc.

We'll begin with Carmela Hutchison, by video conference. If you have introductory remarks, the floor is yours.

Carmela Hutchison, President and Member at Large on the Executive Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Disabled Women's Network of Canada: Thank you very much for asking me to appear today. Irricana, Alberta, is halfway between Calgary and Drumheller. We are speaking from both organizations in support of the bill.

People with disabilities should have their rightful entitlements protected from unfair fees charged by financial promoters. There is a series of recommendations that go beyond the narrow scope of this bill. I want to add them because they are addressed in some of the questions from honourable senators.

Basically the Disability Tax Credit has also become the gateway for determining eligibility for a variety of benefits, so we must ensure unencumbered and fair access. The Disability Tax Credit becomes more commonly used, so there's a need to review the forms and processes for establishing eligibility. We recommend the removal of barriers for people living with mental health disability in the section entitled "Mental functions necessary for everyday life," which has changed markedly from previous years. It actually makes it harder for people with mental health disabilities to qualify for the program, which in some cases might increase the usage of disability tax promoters if they were having trouble qualifying. Addressing the issues proposed by people with episodic disabilities as a criterion does not help to account for the waxing and waning of symptoms within an overall picture of disability.

CCD and the Disabled Women's Network of Canada believe that disability organizations should be supported as part of Minister Finley's interest in social financing to assist people to complete applications for the Disability Tax Credit, the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit and other relevant government programs. The Disability Tax Credit should be made refundable so those who do not have taxable income but experience additional costs related to their disability can have access to that benefit.

Now that the Disability Tax Credit has multiple purposes, eligibility should be reconsidered in relation to those who would be eligible for these other benefits. The Government of Canada needs to make a broader review of the tax measures for people with disabilities to create greater access and fairness. Streamlined processes and strategies would allow people to have greater access to programs and clear policy forms available online that can be directed to increased health benefits and programs for disabled people.

I want to thank the CRA. When we appeared before the parliamentary committees, we talked about the fact that the form for the Disability Tax Credit could not be saved. Please make the forms for the CPP Disability Benefit, the Disability Tax Credit and other federal government forms, wherever possible, savable so that when people with disabilities are filling them out, they can come back to them in a subsequent session. I saw that happen with the Disability Tax Credit, and so I thank the Government of Canada for listening to and accepting that recommendation.

Review the list of other qualified professionals who can sign a Disability Tax Credit application. Prohibit billing above a set fee for forms prepared for any provincial, federal or municipal government program either by professionals or by for-profit companies. In addition to the fees charged by the rest of the panelists around this table and other Disability Tax Credit promoters, medical professionals often charge prohibitive fees for filling out medical reports. They can be in the hundreds of dollars. We need to protect people from exploitation and outright financial abuse by ensuring some standards for industry promoters and financial providers who are trying to work with people with disabilities.

We support the intent of Bill C-462 and agree that people with disabilities should have their rightful entitlement protected from unfair fees. The Disability Tax Credit is a critical issue for people with disabilities as it has become the base for determining eligibility for a variety of benefits. We also encourage the government because determining eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit can be complex. Inequity exists because it is much easier to provide evidence of physical or sensory disability than it is to provide evidence of cognitive, learning, intellectual or other mental health disability.

In some instances, the cost of the diagnosis is considerable. In other instances, access to professionals able to make this determination is limited. The Disability Tax Credit in its current iteration has created significant barriers for people living with mental health disabilities in the section entitled "Mental functions necessary for everyday life," which has changed markedly from previous years.

The reality is that the definition and understanding of "disability" is always changing. Medical conditions are also changing and emerging as new discoveries are made. It is recognized that some disabilities are episodic in nature. As the Disability Tax Credit becomes more commonly used, there is a need once again to review the forms and the process for establishing eligibility.

The Disability Tax Credit was initially designed as a tax fairness measure recognizing that people with disabilities have additional disability-related expenses. Eligibility is now the determinant for accessing other benefits and programs, such as the Registered Disability Savings Plan, the Child Disability Benefit and the Working Income Tax Benefit for people with disabilities, and the Disability Accommodation Benefit in the Income Tax Act. For these reasons, an industry has emerged to assist people with disabilities to complete the forms for the Disability Tax Credit and other benefits.

It is recognized that the support, while necessary for some, comes at a significant cost. A disabled woman from Ontario observed that any percentage fee is unfair, even 10 per cent, which initially seems reasonable. It is a significant cost if the back benefits are only $10,000 and, after $1,000 or a 10 per cent fee is paid, the money is the only money left for many expenses that we as people with disabilities have, or it may be that person's only lifetime security.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities, a CCD member organization, helps people to complete their forms as part of their general form completion service, which is free. They also help people with disabilities write appeal letters if they are denied.

Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities has heard of at least two companies offering a fee for service to help people get backdated Disability Tax Credit. They charge 10 per cent if they are successful and nothing if they are not, to their knowledge. Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities —

The Chair: Ms. Hutchison, I am starting to notice that the time is going to be running out on us. I wonder if you could sum up your comments so we could get to hear from the other four witnesses who are sitting here and then get to a question and answer session from the 10 or 12 senators who are sitting here waiting.

Ms. Hutchison: Absolutely. Basically, I think that the bulk of the recommendations were the main things that we really wanted to voice ourselves on. I think also that one of the things we would look at is every person with a disability of a year's duration who either has CPPD and/or provincial benefits should automatically be qualified for the Disability Tax Credit.

The requalification period for the Disability Tax Credit should be eliminated. A person's condition is unlikely to improve due to the serious and long-term nature of the disability. People understand their need to report changes in disability and similarly are used to reporting changes in their eligibility. Such reporting can also be monitored through their tax filing or other regular spot checks done by relevant government departments. Those measures would create the time for direct patient care, reduce medical costs, decrease administrative costs through decreased reporting and existing monitoring, which is already in place, and reduce the number of times a person with a disability would need to seek a costly service for receiving the Disability Tax Credit, minimizing their risk for financial exploitation.

We again want to thank and support Ms. Gallant for bringing forward this bill on behalf of disabled Canadians.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Hutchison. Thank you for letting us know where Irricana is located.

We will now go to Dr. Cohen, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Psychological Association.

Dr. Karen R. Cohen, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Psychological Association: Thank you, senators, for the invitation to join you today to talk about Bill C-462.

The Canadian Psychological Association is the national association for psychology in Canada. There are about 18,000 licenced practitioners of psychology in Canada, making us the country's largest group of regulated and specialized mental health care providers. Psychologists are designated health practitioners who can complete the Disability Tax Credit certificate on behalf of patients with disability related to mental functions.

The intent of this bill is to help ensure that consultants don't make promises of eligibility they cannot guarantee, don't charge people to apply for it when they're clearly not eligible and don't charge people inordinately, even if they are deemed eligible. These are honourable goals of which the CPA is entirely supportive.

I would like to provide the committee with some background today on how the tax credit was most recently revised and highlight some of the issues raised about the complexity of the application process at that time, particularly as concerns disability related to mental functions.

Some 10 years ago, I was appointed to the national advisory group on disability called the Technical Advisory Committee, which advised the Ministers of Finance and National Revenue on disability tax measures that led to the current system we have today. I was tasked with leading the mental functions subcommittee that took on reviewing the eligibility criteria for the tax credit related to mental functions, disorders that historically had been challenging to assess for eligibility.

Our subcommittee work resulted in important legislative and administrative changes to how eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit, the DTC, is assessed. Despite these changes and the best efforts of consumers, health care providers and the CRA, the assessment of persons with impairments in mental functions for the purposes of establishing eligibility for the DTC continues to be quite complex compared to the assessment of more straightforward impairments in physical function.

It was for this reason that in 2007 I authored a short article that attempted to review and clarify some of the eligibility issues for health professionals who fill in the forms on behalf of their patients with mental health conditions. I also drafted new wording to the form itself that I felt would result in fairer assessments. Unfortunately, this wording was not entirely applied.

With a lack of clarity come definitions and criteria that may not be readily understood or appreciated by the busy health care practitioners who fill out the forms on behalf of their patients. Further, the lack of clarity among patients and practitioners may inadvertently create the market for promoters. If you make the process simpler and clearer, the market for promoters may be reduced, as well as the ability of consultants to take advantage, economic or otherwise, of people applying for the DTC in good faith.

The Canadian Psychological Association supports this bill because excessive fees charged by promoters should be restricted, especially when they, too, may involve any misunderstanding of eligibility. However, it is important to address what might be the underlying cause driving the use of promoters. If it is indeed the lack of clarity for taxpayers and health practitioners, then the criteria and certificate themselves need to be revised to enhance the fairness of assessments.

There's one more issue I would like to cover briefly. Last year's budget made changes to HST and GST attached to reports and services for non-health care purposes. As per Budget 2013, services provided solely for non-health care purposes, even if supplied by health professionals, are not considered to be basic health care and are not intended to be eligible for sales tax exemption. It goes on to state that taxable supplies would include reports, examinations and other services performed solely for the purpose of determining liability in a court proceeding or under an insurance policy.

The difficulty with this budget change is how a non-health care purpose will be defined. Psychological services in Canada are not funded by public health insurance plans, which means that much of the assessment and treatment involves private insurance and establishing eligibility for benefits under this coverage.

The CPA is quite concerned that this change will lead to unintended consequences for Canadians seeking mental health treatment and that Canadians will now have to pay taxes on some psychological services that were once exempt, services that are already woefully inaccessible to Canadians who need them.

Further, more than a year after tabling the budget, our profession is still awaiting clarification from government on this key issue. There have been more than 12 months of uncertainty with regard to how these transactions should be treated for tax purposes, which is harmful to patients as well as to psychologists across Canada.

Thank you for your time. I am a happy to respond to any questions.

The Chair: Thank you for taking the opportunity to bring up that point from the budget with regard to HST and GST.

As a point of clarification before I go on to Mr. Medjuck, when you fill out the mental health or physical health form as a medical practitioner, is it common you would help fill out the tax form at the same time, or do you just leave that to somebody else?

Dr. Cohen: I certainly wouldn't want to speak for every health care practitioner in the country, but my understanding is the T2201 form the health practitioner fills out on behalf of their patients is only that. It does not in any way help them prepare their taxes, but you require the certification of a licenced health care practitioner that the person actually meets the eligibility criteria, such that their disability is severe and prolonged, that they're unable to do something or it takes an inordinate amount of time.

The Chair: The application form for the Disability Tax Credit is a separate form that you are not involved with?

Dr. Cohen: No. There is a section on the form that must be filled out by the health care provider. That's what I'm talking about.

The Chair: Not the rest of it?

Dr. Cohen: No.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Medjuck.

Akiva Medjuck, President, National Benefit Authority: Thank you. My name is Akiva Medjuck, Founder and President of the National Benefit Authority. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss Bill C-462.

Launched in 2008, the National Benefit Authority is the largest provider of tax advisory services to disabled Canadians and has helped over 10,000 individuals to navigate the complex Disability Tax Credit process. We employ more than 120 people in over 12,000 square feet of space to serve our clients across Canada.

The Disability Tax Credit is an important program. Unfortunately, many potential beneficiaries are not aware of its existence. The National Benefit Authority spends more than $1.5 million every year raising public awareness. We receive over 1,500 inbound calls per day. About 40 per cent of our inquiries are from word-of-mouth referrals. A quarter of our business is from individuals who first attempted to apply for the credit on their own.

I would like to emphasize that the NBA, the National Benefit Authority, does not engage in cold calling and is selective with respect to its clients; we do not claim disabilities when the client has none.

We do not hide our engagement terms from our clients. The process is fully explained to every prospective client, and our contingency fee is clearly disclosed. Our one-page client agreement is in plain language, and we do not engage in high-pressure sales tactics.

Our 30 per cent contingency fee applies only to current and past tax credits recovered by our clients. In typical cases, our clients receive credits for five to ten future years additionally. We currently seek no payment for those future credits. As a result, our fee as a percentage of the total credit received by our clients is substantially lower than 30 per cent.

In addition, obtaining the DTC also makes our clients eligible for thousands of dollars’ worth of additional benefits from a number of other grants and programs. The RDSP is one of these programs that is only unlocked with eligibility for the DTC. The NBA does not charge for these additional benefits received for our clients, but without help from companies like ours, thousands of Canadians would not be receiving them.

In the Senate debate, it was suggested that the application process is a simple two-page form. However, as we all know, taxation issues are, by their nature, complicated, and the DTC is no exception. Because the DTC is a non-refundable tax credit, the disabled individual or supporter must have paid income tax to receive the credit. The DTC allows a claim to be made against taxes in the current year and retroactively 10 years. Divorce, bankruptcy, relocation and other life-changing events make the process more complicated. On top of the tax analysis, there is a medical form that can be a challenge for doctors who are not familiar with the DTC process. What's more, many doctors are not paid for completing the form. Finally, if there are any errors in the application or if the CRA requests additional information, strict deadlines must be met or else the entire application is thrown out.

Let us understand, what do the fees that our clients pay us cover? What do they cover? Our advertising budget, and I mentioned over $1.5 million a year; explaining the program to potential clients; reviewing in detail the client's tax and medical information going back 10 years; identifying relatives who might be eligible if the client has not paid taxes; addressing complications in the client's life that have an impact on the tax aspect of the application; dealing with clients' doctors, who are often unfamiliar with the DTC paperwork or the criteria for approval; submitting the materials and monitoring the application process; working with clients to collect additional medical and tax information to meet the needs of CRA. The National Benefit Authority spends approximately three months compiling the claim and another three months monitoring and assisting with applications.

This is a complex process. Karen Nelson, President of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Ottawa, recently appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and outlined a template for exactly what would need be done to help people access the Disability Tax Credit. Her prescription included staff to work with the client at every stage, "finding doctors, collecting past medical records, attending doctors' appointments, educating doctors on filling in the forms, helping clients to complete their self-reports, keeping clients informed of the process and helping with appeals." She argued these services were needed due to the DTC's complexity.

These services are very similar to what the NBA provides its clients except we also undertake the intricate tax preparation issues. Our fees fall within the accepted range for similar professional advisory services, such as lawyer contingency fees, SR&ED refunds, EI refunds and property tax reassessments. We accept the risk that months of our work for a client may go uncompensated, and, in return, we ask for 30 per cent of the retroactive credit.

While Bill C-462 was designed to "protect disabled Canadians," instead it will likely reduce public awareness and force families to deal with the intricate process on their own. Advisers will focus on cases that require the least amount of work — clients with high incomes who pay enough taxes to claim the credit. Canadians with lower incomes, to whom the funds are even more important, will be left to fend for themselves.

There are better ways to address the concerns that have been raised, and we have offered our suggestions in our submission. For example, when the issue of contingency fee was raised in relation to SR&ED program, the government launched a study before deciding to reject limits on contingency fees, recognizing that they were important for smaller companies. This provides a commonsensical precedent.

In addition, we recommend that the issue of fees and related issues should be addressed within the legislation rather than in regulations crafted later on by officials.

In closing, should Bill C-462 restrict the ability of organizations such as ours, the National Benefit Authority, to represent clients, many qualified and deserving Canadians will not receive this benefit. Canadians with disabilities need to have someone in their corner with the expertise and resources necessary to represent their interests.

Thank you, and I will be pleased to answer your questions.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Medjuck. That was clear and succinct, and we appreciate you outlining your position.

Dr. Paul Okorofsky, Director of Client Care and Partner, The Disability Benefit Group: Thank you very much, senators, for inviting me to the committee meeting today.

A lot of what I was about to say has been very well covered by Mr. Medjuck regarding the complexities and things like that, so I will do a little dancing around my prepared remarks so they are not redundant to what you've already heard.

One of my big concerns was the impetus for the bill and how it was described when it was presented at the House of Commons and some of the comments prefacing the bill from Ms. Gallant:

. . . aggressive tactics employed by some providers . . .

. . . There may be legitimate companies doing this work. Unfortunately, it is the less scrupulous operators that have identified the need for the legislation I am proposing today. . . .

Some consultants have even taken the step of employing in-house medical practitioners . . .

. . . I want to see increased protection for disabled Canadians from the predatory practices of some disability tax credit promoters, on the one hand, and also contribute to a fair, functioning marketplace for those who do wish to use the services of a disability tax credit promoter.

This indicates to me that there may be a need for guidelines or regulations of conduct for tax credit consultants rather than just an arbitrary setting of fees. Unfortunately, the bill does not really address any of these concerns. Other than a formula for penalties, as you heard, the bill does not provide even a suggestion of what these rules or regulations should contain.

I was informed by Ms. Gallant that specifics were not inserted in the bill so that everything could be worked out afterwards in a consultative manner. I find this disturbing because I have no idea whether my firm should support the legislation or fight against it. I suspect this may also have been true of many MPs and senators during debate on the bill. While watching and listening to the debates in the House of Commons and the Senate, no one could question the validity of the bill because there is really nothing in it. The unanimous support for the bill was because it was a bill for the disabled, and you can't vote against a bill for the disabled.

Many, however, touched on a recurring theme that is not addressed by Bill C-462. There was concern for many that the process was not easy and that the CRA was not nearly as helpful as they profess. They referenced the cutbacks at CRA, the closing of service counters and how difficult it was for people to obtain information and manage the application process.

There is also reference to the notion that the legislation will contribute to fraud prevention. If any disability consulting firm is suspected of being involved in fraudulent claims, then a proper and thorough investigation should be performed and, if substantiated, dealt with criminally. Dishonest people will always find a way to manipulate the system.

According to Webster's dictionary, a "promoter" is described as a person or organization that helps something to happen, develop or increase. If that is the definition used here, then I'm not offended. However, I suspect that the reference here is more akin to that of promoters selling worthless stocks or swampland in Florida. We firmly believe that "advocate" is a more accurate term or definition of what we do.

Our goal is to inform and educate the public about the Disability Tax Credit. A vast majority of the inquiries we receive are from Canadians who were not aware that the program existed or from disabled who have already been previously denied when they've done it on their own. We perform a lengthy interview with potential clients to determine if they actually have disabilities, if there is a reason to make a claim. Many, after finding out how it works, decide to do it on their own, and we wish them well. We also tell them that if they have a problem down the road, they can call us later. We take our responsibility seriously and try to ensure that claims are filed only for those who are truly disabled.

If we get an enquiry that doesn't allow us to go back retroactively and apply a fee, we often provide that person with the CRA website, tell them what forms to download, take it to their doctor and what the doctor needs to do to complete it. None of the services we provide results in a fee or a cost to the claimant unless we have been contracted to assist them, the DTC certificate is approved and they receive a retroactive benefit for their claim.

These benefits are sent directly to the disabled person or their caregiver. We then bill the claimant for our fee. As I said, CRA does not provide anywhere near the help or advice that is being claimed. There is no continuity regarding phone inquiries from the general public. It is virtually impossible to get through to anyone in the disability claims department or to speak to the same representative for follow-up inquiries. Often, the various agents give you conflicting answers to the same question. Talk about confusing and frustrating. We receive numerous calls and emails from clients stating that a Revenue Canada agent has told them that they should not be using a consultant, that the process is easy and that they are there to help them every step of the way. I received two emails last week after receiving the invitation to come, and I quote the first one: "I was advised by an agent with Revenue Canada that I should not be using your services and that, in fact, there is legislation they are passing in regard to this."

The second one states: "I called the government. The lady pretty much told me that my daughter will probably not get it since ADD is not recognized as a major disability. The lady was basing this info on personal experiences. This, I thought, was extremely inappropriate considering they do not know my daughter nor how much she does struggle every day."

Additionally, many completed forms are subject to a second questionnaire being sent directly to the doctor, ostensibly for more information, often regardless of the doctor's original description of the patient's limitations. Unfortunately, it appears that the decision to send this inquiry lies with the CRA employee, not with a qualified medical professional after reviewing the form. As well, most often, a generic questionnaire is used for each category of impairment that is totally unrelated to the doctor's notes.

A very similar questionnaire will be sent for a child with a claim of ADHD/ADD/OCD as they send for an adult suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, two vastly different situations. A recent T2201 DTC sent to the CRA on behalf of client contained the following diagnosis and description from the doctor: "Parkinson's disease, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, back pain pattern 4, walking impairment related to severe pain in back and legs. Walks 50 feet with walker and then must sit and rest for considerable time to reduce pain." The doctor received a secondary questionnaire. I'm not sure how much clearer he could have been. There are numerous examples of this. We get them every day; Mr. Medjuck will agree to that.

We speak directly to medical practitioners in the course of assisting clients with claims. Many complain that the descriptions and examples of the types of impairments that would qualify a patient for the DTC are quite vague. Too often, I hear, "It doesn't matter what I put in the form; the CRA is going to send another letter." Doctors are upset that their professional opinions are being questioned with a generic form, not specific inquiries related to the patient from a qualified medical practitioner. Several, including one on Friday, stated that they are concerned that their provincial licensing boards will investigate them if they sign too many forms.

The complexities of the Disability Tax Credit and the way it is being and handled go far beyond the scope of what we can discuss this morning. We agree that some guidelines for code of conduct for disability tax consultants need to be put in place, and we would be more than happy to assist in accomplishing that. I thank you for your time.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Okorofsky. For someone who thought most of his points had been made, you found some new ones. We thank you for that.

Shawn Anthony, Senior Manager, TaxWise Inc.: Good morning, honourable senators. My name is Shawn Anthony. I'm a senior manager at TaxWise Inc. We would like to thank the committee for inviting us to appear to address this very important bill. We proudly support Bill C-462. We share with you the desire to increase protection for disabled Canadians from the practice of disability tax promoters whom this bill addresses. Our intention here today is to, in part, inform the committee of the state of the marketplace as it pertains to Bill C-462 and to make recommendations relating to the bill and its potential impact on consumers.

Our recommendations include making the maximum fee the long-standing industry standard 30 per cent, curbing unethical and misleading advertising practices and mandating transparency by addressing confidentiality agreements.

To tell you about TaxWise and who we are, TaxWise is a family-run business, and we've been operating for more than 23 years. We've proudly been helping Canadians who manage medical conditions and disabilities. TaxWise has earned the respect of dozens of associations and thousands of veterans, as well as hundreds of communities across this country, as trusted advisers. TaxWise is also actively engaged in financial literacy by providing free seminars offering tax advice across the country. Unlike many of these disability tax promoters that Bill C-462 aims to address, TaxWise is a specialty accounting firm, with educated, long-tenured accountants. We deal with all facets of income tax legislation, specializing in disability tax credits and medical expense credits. In fact, we explore more than a dozen credits that potentially apply to a medical condition and/or a disability. This is compared to the promoters, who often only pursue the Disability Tax Credit and the caregiver credit. TaxWise does not charge over the industry standard contingency fee, regardless of how many times they have to do an appeal. TaxWise has never had a doctor on staff to write a disability tax certificate and strictly adheres to the advertising model that has been outlined by the public accountants association of Canada, which basically means that you will never see a dollar sign or dollar amount on any advertisement that TaxWise does.

From the marketplace, we have learned of the following activities by these cottage industry disability tax promoters: Throughout the marketplace, some of these companies have built a reputation of charging beyond the standard contingency fees, all the way up to 40 per cent, or charging industry standard 30 per cent plus auxiliary administrative fees and insurance fees. These insurance fees are ensuring the company gets paid even if the campaign is unsuccessful. They have also earned a reputation for unethical advertising practices, including, "If you have a disability, you may qualify for up to $40,000."

This is misleading to the consumer. There is no disclaimer stating that those are unrealistic expectations and that the refunds and credit retrievals over $20,000 are indeed anomalies.

They are also lacking in transparency. Some of these cottage industry companies have required the client to sign a confidentiality agreement, unbalancing the relationship between consumer and business.

We believe that from conflict comes growth. Here is what we suggest to address these behaviours: Thirty per cent contingency-based fees have been the industry standard for many accounting companies for many years, including KPMG and Ernst & Young. While 30 per cent has always been considered the industry standard, it must now be explicitly so. By that, the 30 per cent industry standard should by the maximum percentage allowed to be billed by any company doing medical and disability tax adjustments. Independent research from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, CICA, suggests that accounting firms applying contingency-based billing typically charge 58 per cent of what the consumer would be charged if they had been charged by the hour.

Honourable senators, please protect the consumers by demanding that advertisers justify the cash amount the claimant would receive in the advertisement. As an example, if the company advertises, "If you have a disability, you can get up to $40,000," mandate the advertiser to outline the circumstances in which the recipient could receive the $40,000. At the very minimum, the advertiser should state what percentage of their clients are typically awarded this amount. Most of all, we believe this legislation needs to be balanced, heavy enough to protect Canadians, but light enough not to hinder the access to professional skilled advocacy. We are privileged and honoured to have the opportunity to speak here today about Bill C-462, which will hopefully protect our most vulnerable community members, without compromising the access they require to obtain professional, educated and experienced advocacy.

We welcome all questions. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Anthony. Colleagues, we have quite a list of senators who have indicated an interest in asking questions. I would ask you to keep your question very succinct and direct it to the witness you would like to have answer.

Senator L. Smith: Mr. Medjuck, maybe you could help me. I'd like you to walk through a typical case. Can you do a précis, start to finish, so that the members around the table can clearly understand how it works? Outline pitfalls and the plusses and the negatives, if you would.

Mr. Medjuck: The claim would generally start, and I would say we have a 60-40 role, which means 60 per cent of our clients, if they are online, would type in a word, for example, "disability" or "depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's," et cetera. Our ad, which we pay for on Google, would come up on the side of the screen with our phone number. That is one way they come to us.

The other 40 per cent of our clients come to us by word of mouth. One of our tens of thousands of successful clients would tell their friend or family member, who would then call us.

Our office is based in Toronto, where we have, as I mentioned, over 120 employees. They would call in to our call centre, where we have approximately 30 employees who answer the phones, and they would discuss their claim with a call centre representative.

Just to clarify, the National Benefit Authority does not decide who is eligible or not eligible. If someone calls us up and says they have a paper cut, we are going to tell them this may not be the best application for them; maybe they should try the fitness credit or something. But if somebody says they have anxiety or whatnot, we go through the process with them. We will take their information down along with their disability. We then send them three forms. We send them a one-page, very clear agreement between us and them, which clearly outlines our contingency fee. The other document we send them is a T1013 form, which is a form they sign that authorizes us access to their CRA online account and allows us to be a representative for them. The third page we send them is a questionnaire that we created to help us help the client to formulate their disability on paper. How is their disability affecting them?

Interestingly enough, the Disability Tax Credit really has nothing to do with the diagnosis. I will give you an extreme example. If someone was dealing with schizophrenia, their life was falling apart, they only went to their family doctor and never went to a psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis, very possibly they would be eligible for the Disability Tax Credit when they took these forms to their doctor. The reason being is because it does not depend upon diagnosis; it depends on the symptoms. How is it affecting your day-to-day life? This is the questionnaire we send them.

In addition, I would say probably 10 days after we mail this out, we call them to follow up. Is there anything we can help you with, such as the questionnaire? We encourage them to send the papers back. The reason behind this is very simply, in that in dealing with people with disabilities, keeping the process going many times is a challenge. They lose the forms; they can't find the forms; they'll send back one out of the three forms, et cetera. There is a tremendous amount of hand holding that goes on throughout the process.

When they send the forms back to us, we have a separate department wherein if there is any missing information — whether it is a doctor's fax number, a birth date, a social insurance number, et cetera — they send the documents back to us. Once that happens, we have a document processing department. Our documents are not kept in paper copy; they are kept within our databases by being scanned in.

Then the application goes to our benefit specialists, who do a number of things. First, they will send the Disability Tax Credit to the client, the actual form, and they will walk them through it. They have to see their doctor, and they will help the patient communicate with their doctor. As we've heard in this committee, many doctors are extremely frustrated by the process, so they will work with the doctor to get these forms back.

Second, we also review their tax information. I would say most of the time, the person with the disability, as we've mentioned, hasn’t paid sufficient taxes. So we have to ask them, "Do you have a family member that's been supporting you financially?" The financial supports include food, shelter and clothing. Then we have to go through the process with the family member, getting them authorized and reviewing their tax information.

Once we get all the information back from the doctor, it goes to our tax department. Many times, we will submit the Disability Tax Credit with 30 to 40 pages of T1 adjustments; that's tax work, applying the credits in different scenarios, in different ways, as we've mentioned, depending on life scenarios. Once that happens, we submit it to CRA and wait approximately two to three months.

Then, as we have mentioned, I would say 80 per cent of the time the CRA will send a follow-up questionnaire to the doctor, which must be returned within 30 days or else the whole claim is nullified. We then have to get in touch with the doctor. Many times the doctor is on vacation for two weeks, which puts the 30-day process in jeopardy. A lot of times the doctor has retired or is on maternity leave, et cetera. A lot of times the doctor is just way too busy.

We have to follow up with that and ensure that it gets back and then wait for the client to be approved. If the client is approved, once again our tax department has to review the scenario and ensure the client is getting all the money they are eligible for. As I mentioned in my submission, 20 per cent to 25 per cent of our clients are people who have applied on their own. Many of them were approved, but they never received the money they should have received.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Medjuck. That was helpful, but we'll have to reduce everybody else's time now on their questions and answers.

Senator Merchant: I would like to ask Ms. Hutchison a question. You mentioned Saskatchewan. I am from there, and I'm not aware of the process. Can you tell us how that works in Saskatchewan?

Ms. Hutchison: Yes. I'm not able to go into much detail beyond the report, but I can tell you what happens at our not-for-profit.

The processes and issues are much the same as those that were talked about by Akiva, but the reality is that organizations like the Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities have people complete their forms. This assistance can also be received at an MP's office.

It is a challenge, as Akiva described, because our process and that of Alberta Network for Mental Health is probably about the same six-month duration, with all of the same processes, the only difference being that we operate those services for free and we do not have additional staff or grants. Everything done in that way is pretty much off the side of our desk.

While our organization does advocacy, we are supposed to have more activities around education and that sort of thing, but this assistance is essential for every kind of form. The Disability Tax Credit is quite a challenge, but it can save families a great deal of money if they have some ability to recoup from their taxes.

Also very important, Senator Merchant, is to have the Disability Tax Credit refundable so it can assist the most vulnerable people who do not have access to extra income through any other means. For people with disabilities, CPP Disability Benefit is taxable, so people pay tax on it. If one has income from a long-term disability insurance plan that is not private, or through their employer, that income is also taxable.

There can be some significant savings. It would be of great benefit to people who do not pay tax if this were a refundable credit. It would go a long way to easing the poverty faced by people with disabilities. It could be their annual contribution to a Registered Disability Savings Plan if they were eligible. There would be ways to leverage any small amount that they might get. I mean, $1,000, if this credit were refundable, would go a long way to easing someone's poverty when they're on CPP Disability Benefit, a provincial disability program or medical welfare.

Senator Buth: Ms. Hutchison and Ms. Cohen, thank you for your presentations and the amount of information you gave us above and beyond essentially what this bill addresses because I think it's really important information for us to know.

Going back to the bill, we just heard from three promoters — I use the word "promoters" because it is defined in the bill and not negatively — who said the industry standard fee is 30 per. Can you comment briefly on that? What do you think of the 30 per cent fee?

Ms. Hutchison: As we stated in our presentation, even 10 per cent is high for someone with a disability. I also must concede the point that 30 per cent as contingency is required by most lawyers and accountants. It might be important to acknowledge that services could be provided for free on any advertisement and where people could access those sources for free. There are certain non-profits. For example, Calgary Legal Guidance has an initial charge of $50. Our non-profits throughout Council of Canadians with Disabilities and Disabled Women's Network of Canada charge no fees whatsoever. However, this may be one thing when one is looking at developing the results-based funding and the provision of service through other granting mechanisms where there could also be grants for staff.

As Akiva rightly identified, these processes are extremely complex and require a large portion of our operation. It takes three to six months. For some of our clients, because of their disabilities, it takes one or two years by the time you get them through everything. They may be able to make it in for one appointment, but then you have to wait for them. Also, we are having problems with doctors retiring and people going on maternity leave, that sort of thing, which can be tremendously challenging.

We have had two people whose doctors left the clinics and provided no referral. The clinic did not assign another doctor to them or refer them elsewhere, so they waited additional months because of the time needed to find health care practitioners. This is another situation that is really difficult.

Dr. Cohen: I would add to that. As I mentioned, it is a matter of how you define the problem and how you want to go about fixing it. There is sufficient lack of clarity in the form and educating health care practitioners about what does and doesn't qualify. Unfortunately, that's especially the case for problems related to mental functions. It is easier to assess that someone who is a paraplegic can't walk than it might be to assess the impact of a mental disorder. In the example given about ADD, it shouldn't be at all about the diagnosis but about the impact of the diagnosis on that person living in the world and their adaptive functions.

I would suggest that more work could be done to make the form and its eligibility criteria clearer to the providers who are doing it. Health practitioners, psychologists among them, don't operate on a contingency basis. They don't charge to complete forms based on a percentage of what the patient is going to recover. There are fee schedules, and psychological services are largely fee-for-service. It is a completely different model. I would prefer to see the forms clearer so people can get them filled out under their own steam.

Senator Buth: Briefly, I'll ask each of the promoters: Will you participate in the consultations to set the fees?

Dr. Okorofsky: May I answer that? In my closing statement, I said it is probably one of the most important things we can do. This is not the Wild West. There needs to be structure and realistic guidelines.

Now that I have a chance with my microphone on, I question the remarks made about free services. Nothing is free. The NPOs are funded and the NGOs are funded. Everybody that helps is funded. We are not funded. The idea that we charge and they do it for free is probably a bit of a misnomer. I really wanted to make that point.

Mr. Anthony: We would be happy to attend any consultation in the future whenever we're invited by the Senate.

Mr. Medjuck: Me too.

The Chair: The invitation may not be from the Senate.

Dr. Okorofsky: Whoever.

Senator Gerstein: Mr. Anthony, you indicated that you have been in business for 23 years.

Mr. Anthony: Yes.

Senator Gerstein: Doctor, how long has your business been in existence?

Dr. Okorofsky: Approximately four years.

Mr. Medjuck: Five years.

Senator Gerstein: Do you view yourselves as direct competitors?

Dr. Okorofsky: Akiva and my group?

Senator Gerstein: Yes.

Dr. Okorofsky: We provide a similar service. Some of our methods and operational procedures are different. Each of us has reasons for being involved in this particular business.

Senator Gerstein: Your motivations may be different.

Dr. Okorofsky: My motivation may be different than Akiva's or Shawn's.

Senator Gerstein: What is your motivation?

Dr. Okorofsky: My motivation is that I'm a disabled dentist. I can't practice. I had looked at the Disability Tax Credit to see if it applied to me, which it does not. I'm restricted or impaired from performing my professional duties as a dentist, but I can dress myself, feed myself and take care of myself. I'm not impaired on a day-to-day basis with basic functions of living. I can do all those things. After 30-plus years in the dental profession, when the opportunity arose to do something in a helping capacity, I jumped at it.

Senator Gerstein: Could you describe to the committee a little about the industry you are in? Is it made up of people like you who have a hundred employees, or is it broken down into cottage industries?

Mr. Anthony: With all due respect, I do not look at these two gentlemen and their organizations as my competitors. They are much more in line with what they do, and we are a full-service accounting company. Our specialty is medical and disability tax benefits. That's what we have been doing for 23 years in 99 per cent of our business. We hire accountants and do full-service accounting.

Senator Gerstein: Tell the committee about the industry.

Mr. Anthony: Right after this meeting, I'm going to Peterborough where we were invited by the March of Dimes to do a financial literacy seminar. Many people have come to us to talk about the different experiences they have had in the industry when trying to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and other credits after that. They have had struggles; and that's where we come in. The problem I have, by and large, is with one- or two-person operations out of a basement. That's popping up more and more at every trade show we go to or at every event.

Recently we were at a seniors' health care event in Kingston. I met a woman who works on the Disability Tax Credit and the caregiver credit from her house; and I've been to her office.

Senator Gerstein: I need to understand: Are the majority of these businesses running out of a basement with one or two people, or are the majority basically run by people such as you?

Mr. Anthony: I would say that the majority are represented at this table. Would that be fair, gentlemen?

Dr. Okorofsky: I would disagree because there are other firms. I would admit that the National Benefit Authority is probably the largest one nationally. I spent an hour listening to somebody from Grants International on the radio on Saturday talking about the Disability Tax Credit ostensibly for walking. Grants is not a small company either and is well known for recovery. There are numerous cottage industries. When the bill came out, I contacted many of the people who advertised to find out what type of operations they have. Ours is modest — a dozen people involved in the interviews, reviews and the tax work, et cetera. We're not nearly as large as Akiva’s. It is difficult to do as a one-man band because there's so much to know. We have specialists in each area, but it's not a huge business, like Ernst & Young is.

Senator Gerstein: Could you give us an idea of the profile of your typical client?

Mr. Medjuck: I would say the profile —

Senator Gerstein: What income level are they?

Mr. Medjuck: Everywhere.

Senator Gerstein: I understand that. We're talking about the majority.

Mr. Medjuck: You can't say that. Unfortunately, I can't pinpoint it. It's like asking Canada Revenue Agency. They're all over the map. Some people have zero income, so we have to find who supports them. We have people with high income levels that are paying high amounts in therapy, psychological services, et cetera, that this money often covers.

I would say that the common denominator for all of our clients is that they have been disabled for 10, 20 and 30 years but have not known about this credit. The member behind the bill had mentioned in her riding that there were many veterans. Someone had to go on the radio to tell them about the Disability Tax Credit. It’s a Catch-22. Either they’re receiving it — people on the radio can tell them all they want but they're already getting it — or they're not getting it and need someone on the radio to tell them about it. Why aren't they receiving it?

The common denominator of the people is not knowing about the credit. They have no clue. These are not people walking out of a doctor's office having been diagnosed five minutes ago. These are people who have been living with disabilities for most of their lives, and they're lost. We're investing in people with disabilities. With all due respect, we don't believe that helping people with disabilities should be done on the side of the desk. They deserve our respect and our assistance. Why did I get into this? I have two hearing-impaired siblings with cochlear implants. I'm honoured and humbled to be able to make a living and have 120 other people make a living helping people with disabilities. They obviously need the help because if they didn't need the help, I wouldn't be in business.

Senator Callbeck: Thank you for coming this morning. I have many questions but I'll keep it to a couple of people in view of the time.

Mr. Anthony, you said that you explore more than one dozen credits. I don't want to take the time now, but could you provide the committee with that list, please?

Mr. Anthony: I can provide that. If it's okay with the committee, I'll have it translated and to you by the end of the week.

Senator Callbeck: You mentioned that some charge 30 per cent plus administration and insurance fees.

Mr. Anthony: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: Is it common practice to charge a certain percentage plus these other fees?

Mr. Anthony: No. This is what we're hearing from clients who come through our doors and tell us about their experience with some of these other promoters.

Senator Callbeck: Do you have any idea how much those fees would be, such as for insurance?

Mr. Anthony: I have heard numbers from $25 and up in administrative fees for document handling and a percentage of what the person is quoted for insurance. This is from people who have come through our doors after dealing with one of these promoters.

Senator Callbeck: With you, it is 30 per cent, which includes everything.

Mr. Anthony: That includes all the credits and a recommendation after that they talk to somebody about RDSPs, maybe something like a Henson Trust fund.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Medjuck, you mentioned that many doctors are not paid for completing the form. Who determines whether the doctor gets paid or doesn't get paid?

Mr. Medjuck: That's a very good question. I will give you an example. With provincial applications, for example in Ontario for the Ontario Disability Support Program, OHIP pays doctors a fee for completing these forms; so doctors are a lot more amicable about completing the forms because they're getting paid to do so.

For the federal Disability Tax Credit, there is no mechanism in place for the government to pay doctors. Often, the patient can't afford to pay the doctor a fee of $100, which it often is, and that's a barrier. What do we do at the National Benefit Authority? We will cover that cost in most scenarios, and we only bill it back if the client gets money. If the client is not successful and is not accepted, then we swallow that fee.

Our mission is to remove as many barriers as possible to accessing money that people may be entitled to.

Senator Callbeck: Dr. Cohen, you mentioned certain psychological services. It is a grey area: You don't know whether to charge the tax since the budget of last year; and you have been trying to find out for a year. What is the practice?

Dr. Cohen: If the service primarily has a health purpose then, of course, it would be exempt. The challenge is in defining or understanding in Budget 2013 what is and what isn't a health purpose. The problem with psychological services in Canada is that the bulk of them are not covered by public health insurance, so it is fee for service. If it's fee for service, there is invariably an insurance company involved because people want to get coverage through the extended benefits they might have through work or employment, for example.

Some of the challenges are in deciding if this kind of assessment or this kind of intervention has a health purpose attached. There continues to be a lack of clarity. We have heard from our members that they will call CRA and get different opinions on the same issue. We want some guidance and to have defined for us what does and doesn't have a health purpose.

Our view is that because of the way these services are funded in this country, you are not going to find an instance in which there is not an insurance company attached. It's because of the way in which it is remunerated and people get support for that service in the first place.


Senator Bellemare: When I saw what we were going to be discussing this morning, it struck me that there was very little to debate. Today, however, I realize that we have just opened Pandora’s box. There is a lot at stake here, not just the process, but also the simple facts of the matter.

My question is for all the witnesses. Would you like to see included in this bill — because it is motherhood and apple pie legislation, and as a rule, everyone agrees that it is important to ensure that disabled persons are not exploited — a maximum amount? There is a consensus around 30 per cent. Would you like to see this in the bill before it is passed, or do you think that it is a better idea to adopt it in principle and then debate it later on?

As for my second question, I, too, was taken aback by the notion of promoter. The word providers or pourvoyeurs, in French, would be more suitable; service providers, whether not-for-profit or for-profit organizations. That would be more neutral as far as the bill is concerned. I would appreciate your thoughts on these two matters.


Mr. Medjuck: Thank you very much. It is difficult, and I will go off script for a second. You feel very attacked when a bill is introduced and you are being called a promoter. It doesn't feel like the right step forward to a working relationship. I appreciate your mentioning that.

The Chair: I think Senator Buth touched on, as well, that there is a negative connotation.

Mr. Medjuck: I sincerely appreciate it. The other thing I want to mention is that you hit the nail on the head. Thirty per cent is industry standard. It is a low number compared to other similar industries, and I'm not sure it really needs an eight-month consultation. It is pretty straight out there. We mentioned SR&ED, all of these different lawyer contingency fees. Everyone around the table spoke to the fact, as well, that 30 per cent is a reasonable fee, and we want to make sure that the bill passes in a way that is going to protect the people with disabilities. I think it is dangerous to kind of let loose a chicken. I'm not sure that makes sense, but we will get back to that.

Senator Eggleton: It is a blank line.

Mr. Medjuck: Yes, to let something loose and say, "We will pass this bill without any definition." I'm not sure how comfortable I am having a bill out there like that when everyone is very clear. To most people around the table, 30 per cent is a fair fee, and it is a fee that allows people with disabilities, who choose to, to access the government monies in a professional way, where they're going to be dealt with professionally, ethically, et cetera.

The Chair: Are all the other witnesses content to have Mr. Medjuck speak for them?

Dr. Okorofsky: I am never content to have anybody speak for me. It is just my nature, but I do agree with the honourable senator that I do not like the word "promoter" as well. This has been alluded to several times, and I mentioned in my remarks that the idea of an empty shell of a bill really is disturbing because we don't know what we're talking about. Are we arguing for? Are we arguing against? Are we supporting? Are we not supporting? Are we going beyond a number and then helping to fix the system or to make the system more efficient, which is what I'm hoping we're going to do? That would be my answer.

A number — 30, 25, whatever it is. We have agreed the industry standard appears to be 30 per cent. We would be talking completely differently today about how to fix the system, how to make things work, than talking about whether we're promoters or consultants.

Dr. Cohen: I just want to say that whether or not "promoter" is the right word is something you might want to look at, but I don't think "provider" is the right word. That's often the word used to describe health care practitioners — health providers — and it may aid and abet a little bit of confusion that you are talking about two different categories and two different roles.

Mr. Anthony: If I may, 30 per cent is reflective of our practices since the beginning of time. For other companies who do what we do, 30 per cent is what they've offered. I mean that from the perspective of full-scale accounting as well. As far as going forward without principle first, this is a completely unregulated industry. Anybody at all can put a shingle on their door and do this.

The biggest problem that we have when people come up to us is that they thought they had done everything they could do. They met somebody. They did this work. They thought they did everything they could do. Meanwhile, there are thousands of dollars left on the table that could pay for their therapies, that could pay for their renovations, that accommodate their condition. Regulation is required.

The Chair: Ms. Hutchison, are you content with 30 per cent?

Ms. Hutchison: I would only, I think, on behalf of our organizations, be content with 30 per cent if the question of disbursement is addressed within the legislation. Disbursements are things like photocopying, postage, any filing fees that they may have to do, expenses for travelling to an appeal, that sort of thing. That question also must be addressed in the legislation, and I also endorse the word "consultant" that was put around the table.

The Chair: The issue of what percentage is not dealt with in the legislation either but is left to regulation. Thank you. You have no comment with respect to "promoter" or "provider"?

Ms. Hutchison: Consultant.

The Chair: Thank you. Sorry, I missed that. I have three senators left. We have not a lot of time, but we may go over a tiny bit if everybody is okay with that. We're moving along quite nicely.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: For the sake of timing, I will speak English. Dr. Cohen, I was wondering: Are you aware that some doctors are charging more or less or whatever? Where is the fee established? By whom?

Dr. Cohen: Appreciate that the qualified health practitioners that can fill out the form span many professions, like occupational therapists, physicians, optometrists, psychologists, so I don't know the fee set by every single profession. Whether they have an hourly fee schedule or an hourly rate for their work or whether they charge for the form, I believe it is more common that they charge to fill out the form. One of the challenges with the T2201 is that even though the form is fairly short, when you get the questionnaire back for further clarification, it can take quite a bit of time.

The fees may in fact be nominal, but I just don't have that data to give you.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Do we associate the doctors or professionals that are giving the evaluation of the person qualifying that person as handicapped? Are they part of the promoters, or are they just separate professionals that supply that for the promoter to make the request?

Dr. Cohen: No, they're not consultants or promoters. They're the health care provider for the person with the disability who is attempting to receive the credit. In order for them to establish their eligibility, they have to bring the form to a health care practitioner who can attest to the fact that their disability is markedly restrictive and that either they can't do something or it takes an inordinate amount of time and so on and so forth.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I want to clarify. Those of you who are making the claim, are you also promoting the Registered Disability Savings Plan? Are you telling people that there is another program too that they can have access to and create that fund for the future?

Mr. Medjuck: At the National Benefit Authority we definitely do. This is the first step, the Disability Tax Credit. When people are approved for the Disability Tax Credit, we inform them of two things. Number one is that, many times, they get approved for future years, and they're able to claim those independently, without using any provider. Number two is the RDSP, et cetera. So 100 per cent. We set them up. All of the banks offer the RDSPs, et cetera. This is where their expertise lies, and we send them in that direction.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Is there an extra fee for that?

Mr. Medjuck: No, not at all.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Just to inform my colleagues who did not attend the study of the bill about this, there are half a million handicapped people in Canada who they say are admissible, and, actually, only 15 per cent are covered. As far as I'm concerned, what our report is saying — I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but I think we should share that with you. We have worked quite a few months for that.

The Chair: I appreciate your doing that very much.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: They are saying, in fact, that the federal government should increase and also make it a lot easier in terms of communication so that the people are aware of it. So somebody mentioned $1.5 million.

I hear about the action plan a zillion times a week, so I wish that the action plan would talk about this. At least this is true: It is half a million people. We should have a campaign with that kind of mechanism. There are two big programs, and the second one is a huge one. It is half a billion dollars now that people are putting aside for them to benefit in the future from that fund.

We talk also about the provincial government. In Quebec, my colleague would know that we have the Régie des rentes du Québec, which is also providing some benefit to handicapped people. You have to go to a process to be qualified as a handicapped person. So would you say that, in Quebec, once the Régie is qualifying you, you automatically can claim that?

So you see, there's a lot of money lost in the system for administrative purposes, and the person can be handicapped there and, in the other place, not handicapped. To me, it is a big mess. I applaud the private member's bill. I subscribe to the measure.

First, they should be available; there should be a tax refundable to the person and not something that you qualify for only if you have money. This is totally ridiculous. Very often they are people who have difficulty meeting all the expenses because of their handicap. Second, I think the process should be improved and you should be consulted to improve it.

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Eaton: I have difficulty gathering whether you are for this bill or against this bill, but how will this bill affect your business if it goes through the way it is now?

Mr. Anthony: For us at TaxWise it will not. If its 30 per cent it will not.

Dr. Okorofsky: My problem with this is the fact that it doesn't say anything. You ask whether I support it or I don't. I don't know what to support because what is in there is nothing. There is no fee and there are no guidelines so it's impossible. At 30 per cent I'm on a train and I'm out of here because I would be very happy with that. As well, with rules, regulations, some kind of guidelines, that's fine. At 30 per cent we're all very happy. That's as much or more than what we're charging now, but how do I answer your question?

Senator Eaton: Well, you answered it somewhat.

Mr. Medjuck: At 30 per cent we 100 per cent would back the bill. We feel that people with disabilities should be protected, whether it's through regulations with regard to privacy or whatnot. That's something I see that the eight-month consultation could really address. However, I feel very strongly that the bill should pass with a 30 per cent number in it which everyone we've spoken to and the committee has heard from feels is fair and well within their range of any other services provided.

Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much for working me in, Mr. Chair. I'm not a member of the committee but I come as the opposition critic on the bill. Sorry I couldn't be here for all the time because I was at my regular committee across the hall, in this case the Committee on Transport.

Mr. Medjuck, you said in your opening statement:

While Bill C-462 is designed to "protect disabled Canadians," instead it will likely reduce public awareness and force families to deal with the process on their own. Advisers will focus on cases that will require the least amount of work — clients with high incomes who pay enough taxes to claim the credit. Canadians with lower incomes, to whom the funds are even more important, will be left to fend for themselves.

Are you making that statement just on the basis of what the percentage will be? In other words, if it's 30 per cent this statement wouldn't apply?

Mr. Medjuck: That's correct. Thirty per cent is a safe number. I feel that if 30 per cent is put into the bill then the people with disabilities are in a good position, the companies are in a good position to be able to help them properly, efficiently and professionally, 100 per cent.

Senator Eggleton: If it's 20 per cent or 15 per cent, you think that applies?

Mr. Medjuck: It will start cutting into and it will be hurting the people with disabilities. It's going to be cutting down on the marketing, being able to bring this information to people and how we're able to hold their hands through the process, which is something that people with disabilities require.

Senator Eggleton: Thank you. Dr. Cohen, you said that if you make the process simpler and clearer the market for promoters may be reduced, and you said that you previously had advocated for a new kind of wording in the form.

I gather from what we've been hearing here today that we couldn't come to the conclusion that that similar form would cover 100 per cent, but what percentage do you think it would cover? How much do you think you could reduce by a simpler form the number of times that people have to go to these consultants — I'll call them consultants — as opposed to being able to do it themselves?

Dr. Cohen: To some extent it's an empirical question. I don't have the data, and maybe CRA does, but when they revised the eligibility criteria and they revised the T2201 substantially in around 2004-05, it would be interesting to see how that affected the number of applications they received, the number that are approved, the number that go back for further information, whether they are related to mental functions and so on. That would give us some basis for seeing whether the changes that were made did in fact make it easier. I think it's a matter of making it clearer, getting the information out to health care providers as a communication function, as well as to people with disabilities.

It concerns me that if something is complex the solution is to get someone to help you with it rather than making that process clearer so that health providers know exactly what they need to do to certify eligibility. After the T2201 was revised, I endeavoured to write some guidance to help providers, to say, "Here's how your client with a mental disorder might qualify." As one organization, of course, there is a limit to the dissemination of that information we can accomplish on our own.

Senator Eggleton: I have a final question for any of you. Some of you have talked about other things you think should be covered, like unethical advertising, misleading advertising practices or helping ensure that the bill would help ensure consultants don't make promises of eligibility they cannot guarantee, don't charge people to apply for it when they are clearly not eligible and don't charge people inordinately even if they are deemed eligible. I don't see any of that in the bill.

I think Dr. Okorofsky has said it's really a bill with just a framework for deciding on what a fee is going to be but the fee isn't there; it's a blank.

Should this bill be held up pending these other things that perhaps should be addressed, or is there a parallel process to address these other things?

Mr. Anthony: Senator Eggleton, thank you very much for the question. Our intention to come here today was to inform the Senate of the industry and the things we hear in the industry and things that we were experiencing. One thing we've noticed, probably much like the other people here on the panel, is that people who come to us are often society's most vulnerable and most marginalized. When you're talking about somebody who is financially distressed and they see an ad with a person with a cane saying you can get $40,000, it can be misleading. This is what we're hearing from the marketplace. That was my statement, and that was our intention to inform the committee on what we're hearing from the marketplace.

Senator Eaton: This bill doesn't address that.

Mr. Anthony: No, but again, we wanted to come and inform the committee of the state of the marketplace.

Mr. Medjuck: To be very honest with you, I'm a little surprised by I would say the lack of knowledge of a lot of very key elements to understanding the Disability Tax Credit, how it works, how our companies work, that the member behind the bill really just isn't aware of. Even the point that the member behind the bill mentioned that the money comes to the companies and we give that out, that's inaccurate. Therefore what concerns me is that there was no consultation before the bill to able really to see what type of bill is necessary.

Just to add to your point, I would love to see the eight-month consultation with CRA be consultation with our companies, who have dealt with tens of thousands of people with disabilities who for whatever reason didn't go to CRA but they came to us. Let CRA speak to us. I'm happy to have a dialogue with CRA to be able to say, "These are things you could do to make this process simpler or easier." We as companies have dealt with more forms than any specific individual person out there.

It baffles my mind and we've reached out to CRA on numerous occasions saying, "We'd love to have a dialogue with you to be able to tell you small things you could do." I'm not talking about legislative changes; I'm talking about small changes to make this process easier for people with disabilities. And the only response we've received numerous times is, "We're not able to give preference to anybody and we can't have a dialogue with you."

With that eight-month consultation, instead of spending it trying to figure out whether it should be 29 per cent or 31 per cent, let's use CRA's valuable time to look at the end game. How do we help people with disabilities do this independently without necessarily requiring a company like us or requiring us less?

Dr. Okorofsky: I will address the idea of the misleading ads. As we all know, on line or in the newspaper or wherever, you have basically a nanosecond to get someone's attention. If the ads seem a little outrageous to some, you also have to understand that advertising people say, "You need to grab them fast and get their attention." We spend all our time talking to them personally, and then we explain what's involved. If they don't understand we explain it to them. We explain what the potential upside or the potential benefit may be. They may not be entitled to anything. Those are things we do once we are able to establish a dialogue, but you only have a second, a brief moment to try to make them aware that it's there, and then you talk to them in person.

Dr. Cohen: I have a brief comment on the consultation with consultants. It's a requirement of establishing your eligibility that a health care provider fills out this form. Let's not lose sight of the fact that if we're going to invest in consultation, consult with the health care providers who must fill out the form, not necessarily the consultants who can or may assist someone to fill out the form.

The Chair: That's a very good point.

It's clear we could have gone on for some time on this issue. The service that is needed by this segment of society, taxpayers with disabilities, is very important, and a lot of senators have had some very serious questions and you've answered them to the best of your ability. We thank you very much for that, Mr. Anthony, Dr. Okorofsky, Mr. Medjuck, Dr. Cohen, and Ms. Hutchison. Thank you very much for being there.

Colleagues, thank you for your questions. We will think about a lot of these issues. If any senator feels we should do further research on this issue, please let a member of steering or our clerk know, otherwise it's our intention to proceed with clause by clause tomorrow evening. That will give you today and tomorrow to reflect on the very important information the witnesses have brought to us.

This meeting is now concluded.

(The committee adjourned.)

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