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Focus on families

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Deveau, Denise
Publication Date: 
19 Oct 2010

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While it was only a check mark on an electronic form, a Nova Scotia mother's registration of her baby's birth in July 2009 was a significant milestone.

She became the first person to use the newly launched automated benefits application (ABA) from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

ABA is a collaborative effort between the federal agency and provincial vital statistics agencies that allows birth registration data to be automatically submitted to the CRA for approval of Canada child and family benefits.

These include the Canada child tax benefit, the universal child care benefit, and the GST/HST credit.

While the process for parents is simple, the effort behind enabling the transition of information from provincial vital statistics departments to the Canada Revenue Agency was anything but. It was a three-year-long undertaking in which federal and provincial bodies combined their expertise to create a system that would make life easier for hundreds of thousands of new parents applying for child and family benefits every year.

The idea was on the CRA's wish list for a long time, says Linda Springstead, manager of the automated benefits application project at the agency. "We have wanted to do this for several years but had no way of transmitting the information across jurisdictions in a way that was secure enough. Everyone had different operating systems and communications networks."

In 2008 all that changed with the establishment of the national routing system (NRS), a communications platform developed by Statistics Canada in partnership with CRA that allows secure delivery of data across the country. "That was the technology we needed to do this," she says.


As soon as it was up and running, the team set out to talk to vital statistics agencies in every province and territory to see if they were interested in taking part. "When we made our presentations, and pointed out the advantages in terms of service to citizens, lo and behold, every jurisdiction was interested," Springstead says.


With the ABA system, the average processing time between a child's date of birth and the family receiving child and family benefits has been cut in half. In addition, parents no longer have to fill in forms to apply for benefits - as soon as the information is uploaded from provincial vital statistics divisions, the calculations begin.


While the take-up rate was expected to be in the 75 per cent range, fully 94 per cent of new mothers are choosing to apply electronically, she adds.

The per-unit transaction cost has been reduced from $7.74 for processing paper applications to $1.10 for ABA transmissions. That translates into $100,000 in savings for the first three provinces to join. When the national rollout is complete in 2013, it's estimated there will be 340,000 electronic applications filed a year, with annual savings reaching $2-million.

"This will be the standard way people will apply for benefits for newborns because we can get the funds into the hands of new parents faster," Springstead says.

-reprinted from the Ottawa Citizen

Entered Date: 
20 Oct 2010
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