The Honourable William Morneau
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Dear Minister Morneau,
Re: Taxation of health and dental premiums
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) in response to recent suggestions that your government is considering the taxation of private health and dental plans provided as part of employee benefits. In this regard, CASW echoes the concerns already expressed by many other health and social associations, stakeholders, and the public: we believe such a tax would be ill-advised, unnecessarily punitive, and further compromise access to mental health supports.
As background for you, for 89 years, CASW has been the national association voice for social workers in Canada; working to strengthen and promote the profession while advancing issues of social justice. To this end, CASW has been very pleased by your government’s actions toward a fairer and more equitable Canada; paying particular attention to your promises around health and mental health.
I am certain you are aware of the discrepancy between the availability of health and mental health services in Canada. There are over 50,000 social workers in Canada, many of whom work in the field of mental health, and are acutely aware of the challenges that already exist around securing access to care.
Due to clawbacks in the public health and social sector over the past ten years, the private sector has had to fill gaps in access, with clients paying out of pocket or through employee benefit plans for the care they need. As such, social workers are increasingly found in the private sector; offering therapeutic counselling and other forms of psychosocial care.
Indeed, this decision would also disincentivize the provision of extended health benefits that cover mental health services by employers. For example, research shows that Quebec began taxing employee health premiums paid by employers in 1993, nearly 20 per cent of employers ceased their coverage offerings.
CASW is deeply concerned that the tax you are considering will further restrict Canadians access to crucial mental health services that, ideally, should be fully funded under the public system. However, in the absence of such public coverage, private health care programs are critical in the delivery of mental health services. Instead of making the provision of private health care insurance programs less attractive to employers, it is in the government’s interest to actively incentivize it.
CASW looks forward to continuing to support your government in the implementation of positive changes for Canada, chief among them the reversal of the past government’s punitive socially irresponsible policy decisions that benefited the privileged while ignoring – or worse, further marginalizing – the already vulnerable.
If you would like to learn more about our organization and the work we do to advance social justice in Canada, visit our website at casw-acts.ca. Again, on behalf of the CASW federation, I urge you cease any discussions around the development of such a tax.
Jan Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW
cc. CASW Federation