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Cost of Living Relief Bill, No. 2 (Targeted Support for Households)

Motion in Amendment Negatived

November 17, 2022

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-31 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 2, on page 15, by adding the following after line 17:


31 The Minister must cause to be tabled in each House of Parliament, no later than 90 days after the end of each fiscal year from 2022-2023 through 2027-2028 inclusive, the following information in respect of this Act for the immediately preceding fiscal year:

(a) the number of applications received for a dental benefit;

(b) the amount of total dental benefits paid, and the amount of dental benefits paid broken down by applicants’ federal income tax bracket;

(c) the total amount of dental benefit paid out to applicants broken down by eligibility of the applicant under each provision of subsection 9(1);

(d) the number of applicants from whom information and documents were requested under subsection 16(1);

(e) the number of applicants found ineligible for a dental benefit under subsection 16(2);

(f) the number of reconsiderations of applications that occurred under subsection 18(1);

(g) the number of applicants who were found under subsection 18(2) to have received a dental benefit to which they were not entitled;

(h) the total amount that was paid to persons who were not entitled to receive money by way of a dental benefit;

(i) the total amount that was recovered from persons who were not entitled to receive money by way of a dental benefit;

(j) the number of instances a liability was acknowledged in accordance with subsection 21(5); and

(k) the number persons in respect of whom the Minister is of the opinion that the person has committed a violation within the meaning of subsection 23(1) and the total amount of penalties imposed under subsection 23(2).”.

Thank you, meegwetch.

Hon. Hassan Yussuff [ - ]

Honourable senators, I would first like to thank Senator Pate for delivering Senator McCallum’s concerns with regard to this bill. I want to thank Senator McCallum for her efforts in attending the National Finance Committee to raise some of these same issues directly with the minister — and others — when he was there with regard to the application of the benefit and how we might deal with some of these concerns.

Let me start by dealing with the issue of fraud. As is stated in the legislation, applicants’ income eligibility, presence of children and their age will be verified, of course, at the time an application is made — and through the CRA’s existing information system — before payment is made.

When applying, an eligible parent will be asked to provide the following information to confirm eligibility: the contact information of a dental professional who did or will provide a dental service; the contact information of their employer, if they have one, for the purpose of verifying access to employer dental care; and any other information requested to verify their eligibility.

Applicants will be made aware that they will need to be able to demonstrate that they meet the required eligibility conditions. This includes demonstrating that they had out-of-pocket costs that they used the benefit to pay for, as intended, for example, by showing receipts.

In addition, after the fact of verification and audits, a process will be used according to CRA’s standard practices and using the powers set out in the bill.

The CRA continues to enhance the security of its digital services to protect Canadians from fraudulent activities. These include security features such as multifactor authentication and making email addresses mandatory for those who use CRA’s My Account.

In cases of deliberate and serious misuse, like for other government programs run by the CRA, CRA will have a range of tools at its disposal as set out in the draft legislation to maintain the integrity of the program. The dental benefit act defines violations and criminal offences in relation to the benefits provided under the act, such as using false identity information, as well as punishments, including fines and possible imprisonment.

There is no question — I think the point that Senator McCallum is raising that families struggling with many issues that in terms of trying to manage a family and providing for their children, they might misuse the benefits. I know many working families are honest and well-intentioned in regard to what this money is provided for. I cannot say for certain that fraud may not occur, but should fraud occur, the legislation clearly provides remedy under CRA’s authority to go after those families. I’m hoping this will not be the case to a large extent.

Honourable colleagues, I believe on that point the legislation meets some of the points Senator McCallum was raising.

It is true that dentists would prefer to have upfront payment. I know this for a fact. When I go to my dentist, I have to pay upfront. Again, as the legislation stipulates, a family can apply to CRA before they receive treatment and get the money before they will get the treatment so they can pay the dentist before their children’s needs are provided through that dentist.

On the last point, in regard to dental therapists, this is an important issue raised by Senator McCallum, but I think it’s been raised by others. Dental therapists provide an important service in regard to prevention and care for children, as it is for adults. The reality is the bill is not clear on this issue. I think the minister heard Senator McCallum’s point loudly when she was before the committee. It is my hope as the government rolls out this legislation — should it get the support of senators here today and receive Royal Assent — they will clarify this point because I think that they provide an important service. I would simply ask senators to vote against this amendment because I believe it will delay the passage of the bill, but equally many of the points have been heard to a large extent. Most importantly, there are provisions within the bill to deal with most of them.

On the therapist issue, I hope the government will reflect and provide guidance as to how this can be accomplished in a way that will satisfy the needs of families seeking treatment and have an opportunity to access dental therapists where they are available to provide service to children. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

Are honourable senators ready for the question?

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

I hear a “no.” The amendment is defeated. Sorry?

Senator Plett [ - ]

We said “yes.”

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. All those in favour of the motion will please say “yea.”

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

All those opposed will please say “nay.”

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

In my opinion, the “nays” have it.

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

I see two senators rising. Do we have an agreement on a bell?

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

The vote will take place at 3:38. Call in the senators.

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