The Liberal government might have distributed billions in Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) funds to ineligible claimants.
According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), nearly 824,000 people went on to claim the $2,000 a month payment without having filed a tax return in 2019.
“I find it remarkable. This is a huge amount,” said Conservative MP Kelly McCauley.
“People were losing their homes and really needed help, but claims were made by others who were either ineligible or didn’t really need it. I want the government to do a proper, transparent audit of this. We just owe it to taxpayers.”
Earlier legislation passed by the federal government allowed people without jobs who had made at least $5,000 in the past year to claim the benefit.
Those listed as “not filed” by the CRA counted for a total of 823,580 claimants potentially costing Canadians $1.66 billion in wasted or misallocated emergency funds.
On Tuesday, the CRA could not explain how those who never filed their taxes could have received the funds.
“Once the crisis is over there will be ample time to check and verify. Some individuals might by inadvertence – I wouldn’t want to imply they might be dishonest – might have made some mistakes. Verification will occur. It’s the Agency’s job,” said Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier on May 11 before the parliamentary government operations committee.
Records also show that 14,070 people earning $210,371 or more in 2019 also received the emergency funds and another 23,9000 earning between $147,667 to $210,371 were also paid CERB by the government.
Earlier this month, the Conservatives called on the Liberal government to stop auditing small businesses who benefit from a different fund, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
“The first thing the government can do is stop treating small business owners like tax cheaters. Stop auditing them and coming in asking for onerous documentation while they are in survival mode and trying to cope with the pandemic,” said Conservative MP Pat Kelly who brought forward the motion.