Whitehorse CRA office returns … sort of

The Yukon Federation of Labour is disappointed with Minister Lebouthillier’s announcement regarding the re-opening of a Canada Revenue Agency office in Whitehorse. The CRA news release (read in full here) states:

“The cornerstone of the initiative is the CRA-supported tax preparation centre, where volunteers from the CVITP (Community Volunteer Income Tax Program) will provide advice to eligible individuals and help them with their taxes. CVITP members will undergo a rigorous and tailored training from CRA officers, and will be supported by CRA to ensure the quality and expertise of the services rendered.  If a volunteer is not available or if a tax situation is complex, clients will be able to use a dedicated phone line at the Elijah Smith Building to contact a CRA agent who specializes in tax questions specific to northern residents.”

A CRA office is needed in Whitehorse, that much is true.  Staffing it with volunteers is ridiculous.  It is also shameful coming from a government that committed to rebuilding public services.

The closure of the Whitehorse CRA office in 2012 was met with concern and condemnation from residents and business owners.  Since that time, Yukoners have had access to a toll-free number to try and address any tax issues they were faced with.  Minister Lebouthillier’s announcement does not amount to a significant change or improvement, it only represents more costs.

Taxpayers will now be paying for office space to house a telephone and a volunteer – when a volunteer is available.  The mention of availability suggests the office may not have regular hours.  This could easily create both cost and inconvenience for people who travel in from the communities only to find the office closed.

If paid staff are already serving Yukoners by phone, why not locate them in Whitehorse?  The value these positions would add to the territory is measurable.  Not to mention dealing with people, face-to-face, in the same time-zone, would help reduce the stress frequently associated with taxes.

Being the public face of CRA means far more than having a few courses.  Taxation is a broad subject and the intricacies of finance can be incredibly complicated.  It is often compounded by emotional situations, such as when a family member dies, bankruptcy or divorce.  Staff need to be able to work with clients who may be distraught, angry or suicidal.  To offload this responsibility to the backs of volunteers is unjust.

YFL would also like to know the answers to these questions:

  • What training will the volunteers need in order to be qualified to advise the public?
  • How will a volunteer know when “a tax situation is (too) complex”?
  • CRA waives fees and penalties when staff provide incorrect advice, will they do the same for volunteers?
  • Could volunteers be personally liable if they provide incorrect advice?

The Yukon Federation of Labour encourages Yukoners to contact Minister Lebouthillier and M.P. Bagnell, and make their opinions known.

Yukon taxpayers deserve to be treated like the valued clients they are.  Servicing our territory with volunteers falls far short of the standard Yukoners are due.

LABOUR DAY: WHY IT’S STILL IMPORTANT

Greed is a problem for humanity. Employers have become rich off the backs of the working populace. Workers, on the other hand, have being forced into long working hours by bosses in unsafe working conditions and for little pay. Unions exist to equalize the imbalance of wealth. The Government of Canada has recognized that and proclaimed the first Monday in September to be a stat holiday for workers.

The world of bosses has changed, with some Corporations becoming the most oppressive group of employers this world has yet seen. Mass unemployment, human rights abuses, ignoring health and safety laws and moving companies to a different country for a cheaper workforce show blatant disregard for the working person.

Corporations have seen an unprecedented rise in power through globalization with more economic status than most of the world’s countries. In the US, in 1886, a court ruled that Corporations are, under the 14th amendment, a natural person with all rights and free voice of a true person. This gave them access to lobbying, controlling educational institutions, and to convince the public of their charitable nature through creating non-profit organisations. Many unions, churches and charitable organisations still fight for these same rights.

Since then, Corporations have convinced governments and political parties-in-waiting that cheap labour and globalization is the only way that the economy will survive, an idea created and supported by neoliberal think tanks. Corporations influence elections by providing money to political parties, which can be seen to take control of governments. In Canada, when listening to the corporations lobbyist efforts, Governments are giving the public less of a dedicated input on the services they are provided by promoting privatization, fighting back on a decent minimum wage, not ensuring affordable housing, and not signing our healthcare/pharmacare accords to keep it affordable. Trade agreements are being negotiated that cut job availability for Canadians, while bringing in a foreign working class who will work for much less, no given proper health and safety training, and often be sent home when no longer useful or have been whistle blowing on their employers.

Unions are more important than ever before. As the voice of the workers, we are a major player in the checks and balances of government decisions and legislative actions. We have the power to cull the work of the oppressive corporations by boycotting, unionizing workplaces and educating the public about the truth. Our voice must be heard not only in our local meetings but in the streets, in our meetings with government officials, on the boards we hold positions on and in public information pickets and gatherings.

Yes, we still need Labour Day to remember past struggles and spread the message of solidarity.

Happy Labour Day to all and the struggle continues.

Vikki Quocksister
President
Yukon Federation of Labour

Canada Enters a New Political Era or Has It?

On October 19th, Canadians went to the polls with the largest numbers of voters for over twenty years, zeroing in on the goal  to make change with the hopes to get rid an oppressive style government. Throughout the campaign,  the three primary parties struggled for votes and the election promises crossed boundaries with former party lines becoming blurred. For many, the choice of whom to vote for had citizens struggling whether to vote with their heart or use their vote in a strategic bid to make a change.

In Yukon, Liberal Larry Bagnell,  defeated incumbent Conservative Ryan Leef as Yukon numbers showed the second highest voter turnout of all provinces and territories across the country. Having the MP previously,  Mr. Bagnell is well known by Yukoners.

The Yukon Federation of Labour, while welcoming MP Bagnell to his position as Yukon’s representative, took the opportunity to remind him of the Liberal Party campaign promises to unions that will repeat a number of harmful bills passed by the previous government. Bill C-377, which publically opens all financial statements to the CRA of all unions and impacts bargaining abilities is one of the most recent. Bill C-525, a bill that changes the way that unions can organise under the Canadian Labour Code and Bill C-4 which attacks federal workers human rights, healthcare rights and interferes with the collective bargaining process and deny arbitrations.  See the following story in the Huffington Post regarding Bill C-4.

Save Canada Post is also a mantra that many Canadians may have heard. Two years ago, the Crown Corporation, an arms length business whose sole stakeholder is the Federal government, submitted a five-point plan with the intent to end door-to-door delivery. The Liberal government has promised to reverse this plan and save home delivery.

Some of the other promises include creating better opportunities for young Canadians and making post-secondary education more affordable, fixing the EI system, signing a new health accord, fighting poverty, and enabling better jobs with skills training. More promises offered better compassionate care, working with federally regulated workers to create flexible work opportunities, an improved childcare framework, and others that affect workers.

With so many campaign promises, repealing and amending some of the damaged relationships with unions, the Liberal Government will have their hands full for the next 4 years. Will the new government be able to keep their word?

Canada has voted to give them another chance.  The Yukon Federation of Labour will be forefront in speaking with our new MP, as the voice for Yukon’s workers to remind the government of many of its campaign promises.

For now, though, we can breath and know that at least there is hope for change.

 

Vikki Quocksister