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Sabrina Maddeaux: Billions in COVID supports may have been abused, and the Liberals don’t seem to care

Fifteen-billion {dollars} — that’s how a lot cash the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) could have paid out to ineligible employers. The sum is mind-boggling sufficient by itself — much more so is the Canada Income Company’s (CRA) admission that it received’t hassle to attempt to get any of it again.

Not “well worth the effort,” CRA commissioner Bob Hamilton advised the Home of Commons public accounts committee final week.

You are reading: Sabrina Maddeaux: Billions in COVID supports may have been abused, and the Liberals don’t seem to care

But the trouble was “value it” to search out ineligible Canada Emergency Response Profit recipients, lots of whom have been unemployed. The hassle was additionally value it to garnish their incapacity cheques and maternity advantages. Conveniently, the road is drawn at employers.

In a world the place authorities spending bulletins habitually breach 10 figures, it’s simple to lose sight of how a lot cash $15 billion really is.

Because it seems, $15 billion is the newest estimated value of a brand new subway line that can run nearly clear throughout Toronto. It’s additionally how a lot the Trudeau Liberals plan to inject into their innovation darling, the Canada Development Fund, and the way a lot cash Meta has spent to date making an attempt to construct the Metaverse.

These new F-35 fighter jets Canada lastly agreed to buy? At round $113 million a pop, $15 billion would purchase 132 of them.

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This isn’t petty money. For the CRA to show a blind eye to it betrays both a dysfunctional group that’s incapable of fulfilling its mandate, or a bias towards going after the small guys — typically employees — whereas letting the large ones get away time and time once more.

The auditor common, Karen Hogan, additionally appears nervous about this notion. On the identical public accounts committee assembly, she mentioned the CRA hasn’t accomplished sufficient “to be able to meet that equity threshold of treating each taxpayer — whether or not they be a person or enterprise — pretty.”

Conservative MP Kelly McCauley mentioned he was “aghast,” noting, “It is a large quantity of potential cash. Who within the CRA is making the choice that we’re keen to threat writing off 15, 20, 25 billion {dollars} of taxpayers’ cash?”

Aghast, I agree. Shocked, not a lot. CEWS at all times gave the impression to be an employer handout in disguise. From the very starting, primary safeguards have been missed and even inexplicably loosened as employment numbers strengthened.

Hundreds of thousands went to worthwhile firms that continued to pay out shareholder dividends. There was little to no oversight of how funds have been used, or whether or not the funds have been reaching their supposed objectives. There was nothing to cease subsidies from flowing straight into govt suite salaries.

These weren’t actions firms snuck beneath the rug — that is how this system was designed. In the long run, it was seemingly one of many largest government-directed transfers of wealth from working taxpayers to companies and shareholders in Canada’s historical past.

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That the CRA and federal authorities would like to not additional expose simply how a lot cash went to companies –– lots of them giant, publicly listed firms –– that not solely didn’t want it, however shouldn’t have certified in any respect, isn’t stunning. Monitoring down that lacking $15 billion and the media protection which may come together with it might come on the worth of a political profession or two.

With employees already shedding their hard-earned cash to inflation and now rate of interest hikes, the least the CRA and federal Liberals might do is guarantee their tax {dollars} aren’t tossed out the window by the billions. If errors have been made with the CEWS, they need to be corrected. Doing so can be an essential step towards restoring belief in establishments many Canadians have change into skeptical of.

Belief can’t be purchased — even for $15 billion — however it may be earned. And incomes again the belief of working Canadians ought to be value some additional effort on the a part of the CRA.

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