Committee of the Whole on Bill C-30: Senator Cordy questions Minister Freeland

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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The Senate resolved into a Committee of the Whole on the subject matter of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (temporary enhancement to the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax credit)

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much, minister, for being here this evening, and thank you also to your officials for the work that you all have been doing to help those most in need. You have also been very generous this evening about answering questions that are not related to the bill. Thank you very much for that.

When you are this close to the end of the list, most of the questions — if you could see my note pad here, there are scratches and editing along the way.

Minister, as we heard during the study of Bill C-12, which was another bill that boosted Old Age Security benefits this past winter, we learned that Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, cannot do any preparation work until a bill has actually passed. Has CRA provided a timeline of how long it will take — if the bill receives Royal Assent — until the department can make the changes? Basically, my question is about how soon Canadians who qualify can receive payments?

Ms. Freeland: It is an excellent question. It is one we have been much seized of. Thank you for thanking the officials who have been working really hard. I would like to offer a little bit of a plug for the people who work at CRA and for Minister Lebouthillier. The CRA has been the workhorse of supporting Canadians during the pandemic. When we looked around to see what tools were at our disposal for providing some inflation relief, we turned to this mechanism that existed and to the CRA, which was really reliable and effective at providing the support.

You are right. It is a challenge that the CRA can only get to work once the law is passed. Canada is a country founded on the rule of law, and they need to know that we, as legislators, have passed legislation to enable it. I’m glad to have the support here.

Let me just say this: We — actually, Mr. Jovanovic and our tax people — have a very good, close working relationship with our counterparts at CRA. Obviously, we worked with them closely in determining that this was going to be the fastest way to do it, notwithstanding the real challenge of it not covering every single person.

They are going to work hard. They have told us they are going to do this as quickly as they can. This is the mechanism that — of all of the different possibilities we discussed — is absolutely the quickest. They are going to work hard to have it happen really soon.

Senator Cordy: Thank you, minister. Since others have gotten off the topic of Bill C-30, let me say that I am very supportive of the dental plan for children under 12. I guess it is because I used to be an elementary school teacher in my other life, and dental health is good health.

Minister, at committee hearings in the House you noted that Bill C-30 is not going to be a cure-all, and we all understand that. It’s a help but it isn’t a cure-all.

Can you tell us what you think this one-time payment will do for those who need financial help?

Ms. Freeland: Senator, you’ve mentioned dental care, so I’m going to take an opportunity to mention it, too. I think it is a really important measure, and we’re going to find that it has an impact beyond what we may have imagined. A doctor I spoke to about it today, talking about this measure, made a very important point, which is the mouth is the centre of a lot of our health and our health problems for the rest of our body. It sounds as if, as a teacher, you encountered that.

Let me in advance urge people to look at the dental health measure from that perspective. We’ve been talking about inflation and the immediate relief Canadians need, but we have also been talking about the fact that there are some long-term measures people need, and dental care is one of those.

Thank you for being so sensible and recognizing what I think we all recognize, which is that this is a good measure. It’s an important measure. I’m glad we’re doing it and doing it quickly.

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