Tax centre counter service shut down

Teresa Wright
Published on October 3, 2012
Summerside Tax Centre
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Counter service at the tax centre in Summerside closed for good on Friday, marking the second time this year in-person services at a federal office in P.E.I. have been shut down.

People wishing to discuss their tax files with the federal tax officials will now have to use the telephone or internet.

Clarke Olsen, a spokesperson for National Revenue Minister Gail Shea's office, said demand for counter services represents a small fraction of the department's current service requests.

“In person discussions between the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and Canadians only accounted for 2.5 per cent of all interactions last year,” Olsen said.

“The way that Canadians file their taxes is changing, and the CRA is changing to meet those needs.”

Olsen added that people can visit Service Canada locations for assistance, and the CRA will provide in-person meetings when issues cannot be resolved over the phone.

But Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he is concerned at the trend he believes is emerging with P.E.I.'s federal offices.

He pointed Charlottetown's Citizenship and Immigration office, which was closed to the public in June, as well as the imminent closure Veteran's Affairs Canada's district office in Charlottetown.

Casey questioned this during question period in Ottawa Monday.

“There's one province in Canada that doesn't have a passport office, there's one province in Canada where a taxpayer cannot get in-person service at Revenue Canada, there's one province in Canada where immigrants cannot talk to a live person and there's one province in Canada, as of next year, where veterans cannot talk to a live person at a district office,” Casey said.

“I asked whether there was anyone in the cabinet and prepared to stand up to the prime minister and defend Prince Edward Island.”

He told The Guardian he believes Shea is not doing enough to protect federal public services in her role as minister responsible for P.E.I.

But in a statement emailed to The Guardian, Shea fired back at Casey. She said his comments “ignore reality.”

“In an unfortunate display, my colleague Sean Casey launched into an unwarranted attack recently in the House of Commons,” Shea wrote.

“His comments also ignore our government’s track record of success in delivering for Atlantic Canadians and for Islanders.”

She pointed to several areas where the federal government has lowered taxes and made investments in the province, such as the development and implementation of capital gains exemptions for fishers, 'record investment' in infrastructure, including housing for seniors and the disabled and $50 million in investments in the lobster fishery.

She also took issue with Casey's comments regarding the fact P.E.I. does not currently have a passport office.

“This ignores that we have enhanced passport services so Islanders can now apply at any of the five Service Canada locations in P.E.I.”

But Casey said he remains concerned over the reduction of federal services and what it he believes it says about the Harper government's attitude toward P.E.I.

“We don't matter. They don't care,” Casey said.

“When you have one province singled out with such rough treatment, there has to be some explanation.”