Fake News Trail Runs Cold

A first-ever federal investigation of fake election news has come up empty. A byelection hoax traced by the Commissioner of Elections to a Tel Aviv software company saw Canadian investigators question the broker, an Israeli daily today reported: “The item was published in good faith and without malice.”

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Fear CRA Will Block Appeals

The Canada Revenue Agency has gone to extraordinary lengths to deny legitimate claims for credits, say tax consultants. The Agency proposes to cap consultants’ fees in a move that would curb Tax Court challenges of its rulings, said advocates.

“People had nothing, they will get nothing,” said Mike Campagne, president of DTS Disability Tax Services Ltd. of Burnaby, B.C. “They will get nothing and cannot get help. The Agency with these regulations is saying, ‘Trust us – you don’t need anybody.’”

The Agency in a June 1 notice Disability Tax Credit Promoters Restrictions Regulations said it would mandate a maximum $100 fee for consultants who file Disability Tax Credit applications and appeals on behalf of clients. Consultants typically charge contingency fees.

“Why would the Canada Revenue Agency want to deny?” said Campagne. “Why would they be doing this? You’re talking about giant amounts of money here. That’s why the Agency wants to get rid of all the representatives.” Some 1.3 million Canadians qualify for the credits worth $1.4 billion a year, by official estimate.

The Agency does not disclose its rate of denial of claims by category. A federal Disability Advisory Committee in a May 24 Annual Report cited a suspicious 53 percent spike in rejection of claims on the basis of “mental functions”, from 14,199 to 21,795 denials last year. “We don’t know why,” said Dr. Karen Cohen, co-chair of the Advisory Committee.

Consultant Campagne said his practice specializes in claims by parents of children with disabilities in mental function: “In my experience the denial rate would be 60 to 80 percent if a person tries this on their own.” Campagne said he successfully challenged ninety percent of denials after lengthy negotiation with the Agency.

“How can we trust the Agency’s system when I am right 90 percent of the time?” said Campagne. “This really bothers me, what the Canada Revenue Agency is doing.”

Chicken Nugget Appeal

Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier has not commented on the fee cap. The Tax Court in a 2003 ruling Nesbitt v Attorney General said the Agency “ought to take a humane and compassionate approach” in reviewing claims for Disability Tax Credits.

Other consultants cited lengthy delays in legitimate appeals, includes cases of a claimant with post-traumatic stress disorder seeking $4,000 in benefits that was settled after three years; a three-year fibromyalgia claim settled for $7,000; and a $1,200 settlement with a diabetes patient that took two years to resolve from the date of application.

In another case, the Agency rejected a physician’s letter from a claimant with recurring dental infections so painful it took her an hour to each two chicken nuggets. “Can she cut up her food smaller?” asked an Agency appeals officer, according to a transcript of the exchange. “Chicken nuggets: If it’s a case where she could just bite into a chicken nugget and eat it, she could cut it up.”

The Disability Tax Fairness Alliance has said the $100 fee cap will eliminate consultants, leaving individuals to take the Agency to Tax Court on their own. “My record is fifteen wins out of fifteen appeals to the Tax Court,” John Adams, co-chair of the Alliance and a former Toronto councillor, said in an earlier interview.

“I do pro bono work for a community with intellectual disabilities, people who applied for the credit and were unjustly denied,” said Adams. “They were all unjust denials of claims. People do not know how to maneuver through the CRA bureaucracy. Their letters of refusal are deliberate and maliciously misleading to taxpayers.”

“There are consultants out there who do an incredible job of helping these people,” said Adams. “Most taxpayers don’t even know they have a right to file an objection. The CRA creates deliberate bureaucratic barriers to accessing the Disability Tax Credit that Parliament intended to provide.”

The Agency estimated a total 63,707 consultants, accountants and tax preparers nationwide will be impacted by the fee cap. The hundred-dollar fee was calculated on the premise a claim could be settled with a one-hour phone call, according to Restrictions Regulations.

By Staff

Edible Pot For Sale Dec. 17

Health Canada will license the retail sale of cannabis edibles as early as December 17. The trade raises “fundamental concerns” about drug consumption in the workplace, employers earlier warned: “There are no obvious smells.”

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Sunday Poem: “Elections”

 

Andrew Scheer

faces a delicate task:

scoop up the admirers

of Stephen Harper, Doug Ford,

Kellie Leitch and Maxime Bernier

while insisting

he is nothing like Harper, Ford,

Leitch or Bernier.

 

Justin Trudeau’s task

is rather simple:

tell voters

he is nothing like the Justin

they have seen thus far.

 

(Editor’s note: poet Shai Ben-Shalom, an Israeli-born biologist, examines current events in the Blacklock’s tradition each and every Sunday)

Book Review — “Back At 11 am”

In the days before Facebook, police reporters visited families that suffered sudden, tragic loss to request a photo of their loved one to print in the local newspaper. You’d think families resented the intrusion, but the opposite was more often the case. Grieving parents typically invited the reporter into their home, as if press interest validated the fact their child’s death mattered, that even strangers cared.

This same sentiment must have prompted Mr. and Mrs. Smith of 16 Geneva Avenue to deposit their lost son Charlie’s diary with the Baldwin Collection of Canadiana at the Toronto Reference Library. He was a good boy who died tragically. He mattered. And there his diary sat in a box, year after year, until it was discovered by poet Jonathan Locke Hart and transformed into this beautiful book, Unforgetting Private Charles Smith.

“Smith was not writing to express himself, to record his thoughts, his emotions, his opinions,” writes the author. “He was simply writing down what happened, in telegraphic style.”

Smith, 22, was an accountant with Webb, Read, Hogan & Callingham Co. Ltd. of Toronto when he was killed at the Battle of Mount Sorrel in Belgium in 1916. In a single surviving photograph, he appears as a skinny youth trying to grow a moustache. Charlie’s penmanship was excellent. Like many 22-year olds he liked girls, and especially food:

  • Pay day: we had a grand feed. Roast beef
  • Potatoes, salad, rum cake, apples, café.

And on his last New Year’s, with only months to live:

  • We had a great New Year’s feed. Jenny fixed up
  • Two chickens with rice, pickles, rolls, tomato sauce,
  • Plum pudding, cake, apples, cigs, coffee.
  • A full feeling afterwards. Weather fine:
  • It rained for about two hours.

Author Locke Hart documents Private Smith’s diary in poetic style, stark and sad and funny, from his departure for the Western Front to the last entry on May 31, 1916: “Back at 11 am.” Smith confided he met a girl in Dieppe, marveled at aerial dogfights over the trenches, called the Germans “Fritz”, described the moaning of artillery shells and chirping of skylarks on night patrol, and the tedium of standing at attention for VIP visits:

  • The Minister of Militia
  • And High Commissioner kept us standing
  • About for two hours. Tradesmen soak us.

In April 1916 Smith took his last leave to London where the girls were “bold”, he wrote.

  • I had a bath, bed, pajamas, dressing gown
  • And slippers. I hardly recognized
  • Myself. The weather was good.

Weeks later Charlie cursed his luck. He was struck by shrapnel but it was “only a bruise”: “I suffered a little from shock; I felt nervous. I am sorry it was not a blighty one” – a wound just serious enough to send a soldier back to Old Blighty, the U.K., and a clean bed in a hospital ward.

In a month he was dead. No photo appeared in the local paper. Smith’s death was dismissed with a single, short paragraph in that day’s Toronto casualty list along with McAllister the mailman, and Probin the realtor, Travers the bank clerk and Private Jones of Ferndale Avenue, who used to teach Baptist Sunday School.

Unforgetting Private Charles Smith is haunting, like the smiling photo of a crime victim in the pages of a newspaper. His death mattered.

By Holly Doan

Unforgetting Private Charles Smith, by Jonathan Locke Hart; Athabasca University Press; 80 pages; ISBN 9781-77199-2534; $19.99

23¢ Carbon Tax More Like It

Cabinet yesterday said it will never raise the 12¢-a litre carbon tax on gasoline though the Parliamentary Budget Office warned at least 23¢ is needed to meet emission targets. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna did not explain how targets will be met: “The price will not go up.”

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First Senate Audit In Years

The Senate budget committee yesterday endorsed an independent audit of its $114 million administration for the first time since 2012. It follows disclosures Senate managers broke contracting rules in spending $95,000 for doormen and ushers: “Troubles begin.”

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Feds Shrug Off Audit Cuts

The Department of Finance yesterday rejected additional funding for the Office of the Auditor General despite a cut of nearly fifty percent in the number of yearly audits. “They weren’t stonewalled,” said Assistant Deputy Finance Minister Nicholas Leswick: “They didn’t receive nothing.”

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Farm Lobby Loses Fish Act

Cabinet yesterday rejected a key Senate amendment to the Fisheries Act sought by farm lobbyists, and cut short debate to speed the bill into law. “We are planning to get things done,” said Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

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Need More Animal Bills: AG

A bill to curb dogfighting for sport yesterday was endorsed by the Senate social affairs committee. Attorney General David Lametti said the bill “does not go far enough” and should prompt other animal protections: “There is much more work to be done.”

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Challenge CRTC At Cabinet

Cabinet faces a rare petition to overturn a CRTC decision dubbed a $20 million subsidy for Rogers Media Inc. “The Commission caved,” said a rival applicant for a lucrative license to broadcast multilingual news programming nationwide: “Any other decision would have been better.”

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Disclose Data On Bad Airlines

Transport Canada yesterday said it will begin monthly monitoring of major airlines for poor service including late flights and lost luggage. Data will be published online for consumers’ benefit, officials said: “Weak results would almost certainly spur efforts to improve.”

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