NDP talks tough on tax office

The New Democrats' federal revenue critic has some tough words for Whitehorse MP Ryan Leef. Hoang Mai was in Whitehorse on Tuesday for an AGM with the federal NDP's local chapter.

The New Democrats’ federal revenue critic has some tough words for Whitehorse MP Ryan Leef.

Hoang Mai was in Whitehorse on Tuesday for an AGM with the federal NDP’s local chapter. He also attended a public meeting to discuss the closure of Whitehorse’s Canada Revenue Agency office.

“We believe in having a more efficient government, but the last thing you should do is cut services. The government did promise that with the $5.2-billion (federal budget) cuts there would not be cuts to services, and (it is) also being very secretive about it,” said Mai.

In September, the federal government quietly closed the Whitehorse CRA office. It’s a move that will leave the city’s most vulnerable with nowhere to go for help filing their taxes, says Carol Church, owner of H&R Block in Whitehorse, who organized Tuesday’s meeting.

Mai agreed.

“What we’re seeing now is the impact on the ground in terms of cuts. The fact that they’re shutting down CRA offices, that will really impact the most vulnerable. We talked about seniors, low income … new immigrants … those cuts are not responsible,” said Mai.

No one showed up to discuss the closure with Mai, but there was another reason for his presence at the meeting.

Church presented Mai with a petition, now at more than 1,700 signatures, asking Ottawa to reopen the CRA office. It’s the same petition that Leef promised to deliver himself.

Leef made the promise at a public meeting via conference call on Friday to hear concerns about the office closure. He also offered to run over-the-counter tax services from his constituency office in Whitehorse.

But that’s a hollow promise, as far as Church and Mai are concerned.

“It’s not a solution. I mean, a CRA – there’s an expertise that he doesn’t necessarily have. There are actually some obligations in terms of confidentiality. A member of Parliament should not substitute himself or herself for another government department. You can’t give specific advice, and we’re talking about legal advice. The job of CRA is also to educate people. I don’t think that’s something that an MP can do,” said Mai.

“I’ve spoken with the minister Gail Shea in the house. The national revenue minister is not really addressing the cuts. She’s talking about people not using those services, only 2.5 per cent of people use those services but when you look at it, it’s a lot of people,’” Mai said.

He plans to table the petition in Parliament once the House of Commons resumes sitting next week, he said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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