DTC and RDSP are the focus of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

February 5, 2018

"I shouldn’t be speechless because I’m just so horrified and outraged listening to your presentations." Senator Seidman said, expressing the view shared by several of his colleagues at the first the first of three days of  hearings on the DTC and RDSP, held on February 1, 2018. "It kind of leaves me speechless. The whole process, as we hear about it, from beginning to end, either is just obfuscation at best or, at worst, exploitative of the most vulnerable in our society."

Senator Petitclerc asked whether the new voluntary Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) will be able to address so many concerns with the administration of the DTC since "it’s really overwhelming when you think about all the concerns and issues and problems... it’s not only fixing one little thing or the other, it’s really an in-depth challenge and, I want to say, problem, so where do we start?" 

There are serious reservations about the effectiveness of the DAC if it only meets three times a year. The mandate for the committee needs to be more than just advising CRA on its interpretation and administration of tax measures for persons with disabilities. We also need to be able to make recommendations for legislative changes to reflect the parliamentary intent of the tax credit, as stated by the former Chief Justice of the Tax Court of Canada, the Honourable Donald G.H. Bowman in Radage v. The Queen:

"The legislative intent appears to be to provide a modest amount of tax relief to persons who fall within a relatively restricted category of markedly physically or mentally impaired persons… The court must… construe the provisions liberally, humanely and compassionately and not narrowly and technically."

Although there were major amendments to improve access to the DTC for people living with severe and chronic mental impairments in 2005, the unintended consequence was CRA’s strict interpretation of the letter of the law that created an even higher bar for 25 per cent of the population, making it more difficult for them to access the DTC.

In her presentation, Dr. Karen Cohen, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) who presented on behalf of the CPA, indicated that there are conceptual problems with the eligibility criteria for mental disorders requiring further amendments to the Income Tax Act, conceding that "legislative change is hard." Nevertheless, she stressed that “there must be parity in how mental and physical disorders are treated. Dr. Cohen is co-chair of the DAC."

After all, the need for greater accuracy and fairness in the application process for all Canadians with disabilities should be a fundamental right.

The following representatives of their organizations presented on February 1, 2018 in the order of appearance:

Panel 1 (10:30 am to 11:30 am)

Panel 2 (11:30 am to 12:30 pm)

Meeting Wednesday, February 7,  2018 4:15 to 5:15 pm

Al Etmanski (Ashoka Fellow Community Organizer and Social Innovator)

Patrick Tohill, Director of Government Relations and David Prowten, President and Chief Executive Officer (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

Brendon Pooran, Senior Advisor (Canadian Association for Community Living)

Meeting Thursday, February 8, 2018 10:30 to 11:15 am

Appearing: The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue

Panel 1

Nancy Chahwan (Deputy Commissioner, Canada Revenue Agency)

Panel 2 (11:15 am)

Krista Wilcox (Director General, Office for Disability Issues, Employment and Social Development Canada)

Frank Vermaeten (Assistant Commissioner, Canada Revenue Agency and co-chair of the Disability Advisory Committee)