RPs have been waiting with baited breath for the HST exemption to come into effect. The general understanding was that five provinces needed to regulate the “profession” before we could seek HST exemption from the federal government. See https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/profession/regulation-across-canada/

As we waited for the establishment of a 5th college, a petition went out over a year ago to counselors and psychotherapists across Canada to lobby for the exemption, garnering over 6,000 signatures. The 5th province, Alberta, finally regulated the profession late last year, but we still didn’t get the exemption.

Why?

Because the HST exemption turned out to be a more complex issue.

According to the Federal Ministry of Finance, the title is being given more weight than the scope of practice. Three provinces are regulated for “Counselling Therapist” (AB, NS, and NB). Two provinces are regulated for “Psychotherapist” (ON, QC). When asked if the title for HST exemption could be “Counselling Therapist/Psychotherapist,” the short answer from the Ministry was “no.”

The Good News

RPs have an active lobby that is continuing to work on our behalf to see our profession become, like our fellow social workers and psychologists, HST exempt. This lobby includes the OSRP and the PRPA (The Partnership of Registered Psychotherapist Associations). This lobby is going on at both Provincial and Federal levels. Despite the set back in the HST exemption, the lobby continues to meet with senior policy advisers to gather information and formulate strategies to pressure the government for, and expedite, the HST exemption.

The Main of the Matter

Since March 2019, Barbara MacCallum, Executive Director of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), who is also Secretary of the Steering Committee of the Partnership of Registered Psychotherapist Associations (PRPA), has been leading the Federal lobby. Barbara met with a senior policy adviser at the federal Ministry of Finance regarding the GST/HST exemption issue. This is what she learned apart from the title issue mentioned above:

The lobby asked if the survey of 6,000 respondents and a 97% support rate for exemption would be considered adequate. The answer was that every case is considered individually and the government could offer us no information on what would be acceptable. They did suggest that a more recent survey may be required, depending on when we achieved the 5th province. The government said that letters from all of the associations across the country supporting the exemption would be helpful once we achieve the 5th province. These will be sought at a later date. The lobby asked how long it would take, once we had the 5th province, to process our request; the lobby was advised that changes to legislation such as this one can take some time, but the length of time could not be specified. When Barbara’s team suggested three years, the government did say that seemed too long.

Next Strategies

BC, SK, MB, and PEI are all in the process of pursuing the regulation of psychotherapy. Barbara is encouraging these provinces to consider asking for both titles – Counselling Therapist and Psychotherapist. However, there will still be an ongoing effort to make the government see reason on supporting the provision of counselling/psychotherapy by removing the HST as one way to achieve their Mental Health Strategy for Canada. https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/who-we-are/annual-report/framework-action-2017-2022. As we continue to get more information from the lobby group around the HST exemption, we will keep you posted. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at president@psychotherapyontario.org.

We’d love to hear your comments as well. There is a place to write your comments below.

Categories: Advocacy

9 Comments

Cortney Pasternak · September 11, 2019 at 12:37 am

I think given all the lip service paid to making mental health more affordable and accessible, I wonder if anyone is considering writing an op ed for our national newspapers to have the problem laid out — and to also lay out the impact — ultimately a 2 tier system — this has on patients/clients and practitioners.

Ken Hundert, RP · September 11, 2019 at 12:38 am

No HST : Hope is not a commodity to be taxed!

Barbara Brown · September 11, 2019 at 12:39 am

Really appreciate receiving this update on the HST exemption lobbying process, and can’t state strongly enough that I am in support of this! Psychotherapists and Counselling Therapists play an essential role in the delivery of a range of mental health services that is irreplaceable, given the breadth of approaches and the increased accessibility. Cheers to the lobbying group, and here’s hoping the federal government will recognize the importance of increasing accessibility through HST exemption.

Ingrid Jacobson · September 11, 2019 at 2:20 am

Election time people. This is something the Liberals have been supporting so let’s speak with our candidates and get the conversation happening. I like Cortney Pasternak’s idea about an op-ed in the paper. Can this be done by our board? It would certainly put us out front in the conversation and to be seen as a leading advocate.

David Fung · September 11, 2019 at 9:55 pm

Election time, indeed! I would absolutely be delighted to have a meeting with my Liberal MP with article in hand to talk about this issue.

Doug Jones · September 11, 2019 at 11:56 pm

HST regulations are “policy” and as such can be changed. Despite the 5 and 2 rule (five provinces must be regulated) there is nothing in the current legislation that prevents a province from asking for HST exemption for their own province. Each province has jurisdiction over health policy and regulation of psychotherapy is complete in Ontario. The Feds benefit when they listen to what the province wants regarding health care – especially when it does not it does not cost them a lot of money, makes them look good and in fact reduces mental health costs and equalizes the playing for the practitioners who have access the the controlled act of psychotherapy. In fact the Tax Act specifies that it is not intended to favour any practitioner group. Clearly making RPs HDT exempt helps them to right a current wrong (I.e. Social Workers etc are HDT exempt and RPs are not)
Thanks to Barbara et al of CCPA and PRPA we have a more coordinated approach to expressing the opinions of RPs. The negotiations for changing policy require that the province agree to give up their share of the HST revenue for psychotherapy. If the provincial minister were willing to lobby Ottawa asking for HST exemption the Feds would be a different position than they are without the request from the province. Yes it is election time. It is likely too late to get Ontario to propose exemption to the Liberals before the election. However, an HST exemption would look good on any Federal party.
It would make sense to directly lobby the province to propose this change.

Julie Clarke · September 12, 2019 at 12:45 pm

As another commenter stated making RPs exempt from charging HST would right a wrong. Two professions who do similar work are exempt (RSW and C.Psych.). Has a lawyer been consulted about the possibility of a class action lawsuit? Individuals are paying this HST that if another similar professional was seeing them they wouldn’t have to pay. Why would the government change this when they would lose that financial piece. It’s wrong and it is taking way too long for this issue to be properly resolved. On the flip side if it is decided to wrong the right and require RSWs & C.Psych’s to charge HST what would the result be? I am betting these professions would not be happy. Our clients don’t need to be paying an additional amount of money for mental health. I appreciate this forum and all those working on behalf of RPs 🙂

Margaret Mikkelborg · September 13, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Thank you for this blog and to all those who have been working so consistently on this issue. I agree with earlier comments on the disparity between mental health being deemed as such a priority at the provincial and federal levels and yet the lag in making mental health care more accessible to the general public. Why should people have to pay an extra tax to see a psychotherapist? Push your local MP to take this on as an election issue!

Carolyn Dallman Downes · September 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

We have been at this for years. Every time we appeal this on one set of grounds that conform with their rules, they either dispute our credentials, or change the rules. When we first appealed, many years ago, on the grounds that the federal/provincial agreement around HST decreed that all professions performing the same function should be treated the same for taxation purposes (i.e. if psychologists performing psychotherapy should not be required to charge HST then neither should Social Workers) we were denied because, in the letter I received, RP’s were not “practitioners” on the same level with social workers, doctors or psychologists. When they tell us we need to have five provinces on board, they then tell us that they don’t like the scope of practice of the “Counsellor Therapists”. But then they will only give us the most hazy description of what we need to do, what the ever-shifting criteria are or what process we should follow in order to do what is obviously right and in the best interests of the public.

If we had a client who behaved this way we would know we were coming up against resistance of some kind, and we all know that pushing against resistance only makes people dig in their heels.

Setting aside for the moment the question of how some government functionary in the Canada Revenue Agency is qualified to determine our scope of practice, I feel that perhaps we need to make an end-run around the whole process. Whoever is making these decisions sees it as their holy duty to protect government revenue, so they are always going to find a way to change the rules of the game no matter what we do. If there is going o be change it will require a directive from above. There needs to be buy-in from the PMO or the Health Minister before any action will be taken.

I am not sure this election is the place to try to make a play for this as I am not sure it is a big enough issue to make it into the public dialogue, nonetheless, it is definitely worth making waves to see what happens. However, after the election, I do think we need to think big. As a multi-provincial delegation, we need to mount a public campaign and then go to Ottawa directly, to lobby loudly and vocally for the rights of our clients and the need to make psychotherapy more accessible and frankly, more respected as equivalent to that which might be practiced by a psychologist, nurse or social worker.

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