Records from the Canadian Revenue Agency show that nearly 824,000 people who were ineligible for CERB payments were provided with the pandemic relief payments, costing billions in taxpayer dollars, according to Blacklocks Reporter.
A total of 823,580 people who had not filed tax returns in 2019 collected CERB payments despite the fact that the relief specifically applied to individuals who made over $5,000 in income the previous year in accordance with their tax returns. The CRA provided no explanation for how such widespread fraud occurred.
While CERB claimants were meant to provide relief to Canadians who lost their jobs during the pandemic-related economic downturn, individuals ranging from never-employed high school students to top tax-bracket earners managed to siphon money from the government through the CERB system. The number of top tax-bracket earners, individuals who make over $210,371 per year, who collected CERB payments lies at over 14,000.
Conservative MP Kelly McCauley described the findings as "remarkable." "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."
“This is money that should have been targeted to those who needed it,” McCauley continued.
McCauley further blasted the verification process for CERB, stating "The way the program was set up, if you had $5,000 in earned income in 2019 you could qualify for the CERB. I don’t believe there was any verification at all."
Liberal Party politicians appeared to be aware of the potential for fraud, responding with the attitude that such issues can be dealt with at a later date. Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier testified in May that "once the crisis is over there will be ample time to check and verify." She did, however, insist that a verification process would be adhered to, stating that "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."
Then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau argued that fraud would be a fact under CERB, but that those problems could be tackled later. "The fact there are some people who are committing fraud or that there accidents is a problem," Morneau said in May.
While the CERB program was originally budgeted at $24 billion, the program costed taxpayers $81.6 billion, more than three times the projected amount, by the time the program finished.