Guelph’s MP, and former Estate lawyer, Frank Valeriote, recently tabled Bill C-247, the Service Canada Mandate Expansion Act (the “Bill”). If enacted the Bill would require the Minister of Employment and Social Development to establish Service Canada as the single point of contact for the Government of Canada in respect of all matters relating to the death of a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident.
Under our current system, estate trustees are often required to contact a multitude of government departments upon the death of an individual. These departments can include (to name a few):
- Service Ontario for Old Age Security and CPP Benefits, Employment Insurance and in relation to the Deceased’s Social Insurance Number Card;
- The Canadian Revenue Agency in relation to the completing of the Deceased’s final tax returns;
- Passport Canada if the Deceased had a valid passport at the time of death; and
- The RCMP if the Deceased had firearms.
There is little if any communication between the various government departments and each generally has unique documentation and procedural requirements that must be deciphered and complied with by the estate trustee.
Valeriote indicates that “the creation of ‘one point of contact’ at Service Canada would bring efficiency to the system and would remove the guess work for survivors and estate administrators who may not be fully aware of the deceased’s obligations to the federal government.”
He goes on to state that the Bill “will reduce the possibilities of benefit overpayments and costs to the federal government to retrieve such expenditures… and avoid the possibility of requests arriving years later from the federal government demanding repayments or penalties”.
Under the proposed Bill, an estate trustee need only advise Service Canada of the death once. This one contact would trigger a notification to all relevant departments, who would then be required to advise the deceased’s estate trustee of the specific procedures and responsibilities applicable in relation to the cancellation of benefits, the return of identification documents and access to any survivor benefits.
A similar system has been successfully implemented in the United Kingdom called “Tell Us Once.” The process in the UK allows an estate representative to report a death to most government organizations with just one communication.
The Bill comes on the heels of the 2013 Fall Auditor General’s Report titled “Access to Online Services”. In Chapter 2 of this report, under ‘delivery of services to Canadians’ the Auditor General examined the current practices and procedures relating to death notifications and highlighted the lack of coordination and communication between the various departments.
Valeriote says “the current system is far too cumbersome for those who have lost their loved ones. Should the Bill be passed people will finally find some comfort in knowing they won’t be facing an endless labyrinth of frustration in wrapping up the affairs of their loved ones which sometimes leads to higher legal bills.”
The Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons Oct. 8, 2014, and was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for further study.
If the Bill becomes law, the Minister of Employment and Social Development will have one year to establish Service Canada as our single point of contact.
Thank you for reading,