EI benefits

Just a suspicion ...

I was recently asked a question about the cartoon below.
I made an editorial comment on the Harper government’s ‘“equalizing” of EI benefit requirements for Northerners. Jason Kenney, the federal Employment and Social Development minister, essentially made the three Northern capital cities subject to the same rules as southern Canada. Residents of these northern capitals will have to work 700 hours in 52 weeks rather than the current 420 to qualify for EI. These benefits will now run out after a maximum of 36 weeks instead of 45.
I was specifically asked about the words I placed on the piece of paper in Kenny’s little hands:
Northern Living Allowance and Northern Tax Deductions.
Did I know something that even our member of parliament, Ryan Leef, didn’t know? Was Ottawa targeting the special benefits given to those of us who willingly live in such a harsh environment for the purpose of asserting Canada’s sovereignty over the vast and mostly untapped resources of the North?
Well, no.
It’s only a nagging suspicion on my part that this federal government has long despised these benefits. If you live and work in the North, turn to the person sitting next to you, and ask them if they’ve been audited by CRA in the last couple of years. Audited ... for travel expenses or perhaps the living allowance? I bet 9 times out of 10 you will get a “yes.” A yes most probably followed by a harsh expletive.
For several years now, at least in Whitehorse, tax preparation offices have quietly complained about the number of audits being done on Yukoners for the travel expense and Northern Living Allowance items on your T4. Some poor unfortunate souls have been audited for these items several times, and a few over consecutive years. Now, maybe that is just CRA staff being good bureaucrats. After all, whatever government is currently in power, they depend on the honesty of all Canadians to pay their taxes to support all the wonderful benefits we are privileged to enjoy in this country, and to allow our duly elected officials the joys of travel to foreign locals, and to eventually be the recipients of a very generous pension when they retire.
However, ask a tax person in Whitehorse how they feel about these audits, and you will get a consistent answer: since the Conservatives shut down the tax office in the Yukon’s capital city, these audits have become a nightmare. There is no longer a representative of the government in Whitehorse so any communication or transmission of document shas to be done online or, gasp, by fax. Some tax offices are even rolling in the cost of handling these audits into the initial fee that you pay for their services.
So, do I know something our sole member of parliament doesn’t know? (Okay, I can hear some of you laughing.) Probably not, it’s just a suspicion, a feeling, a slight nagging at the nap of my neck if you will, that perhaps one day, maybe soon, the audits will cease because those line items on your T4 will quietly disappear.
It’s just a suspicion, that’s all.

FEB 21-14 Kenny perks