The Liberal Minister for National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, consistently criticized the Auditor General of Canada for producing a politically motivated report, one that is critical of the Liberals’ payments to ineligible individuals as part of their COVID-19 efforts, of $4.6 billion in overpayments to ineligible individuals.
During question period, in the House of Commons, Lebouthillier was criticized by Conservative MPs for describing the AG’s report as politically motivated, and done under the duress of Conservative MPs.
Lebouthillier said that their programs helped Canadians, that the party does not regret the help they provided to Canadians, and that Hogan’s report was ideologically motivated. She cited the CRA and used their alleged disagreement with the Auditor General’s report to justify her sentiment.
“The CRA does not agree with the Auditor General’s calculations in regards to ineligible recipients to the wage subsidies,” she said. “The CRA’s calculations indicate the people were highly compliant.”
“We all know she was oppressed by the Opposition to produce this report,” Lebouthillier also claimed.
Karen Hogan, the Auditor General (AG), specifically stated that the agency "found that overpayments of $4.6 billion were made to ineligible individuals, and [...] estimated that at least $27.4 billion of payments to individuals and employers should be investigated further.”
During the pandemic, the federal government gave an enormous amount of money to Canadians to help support them as they faced difficulties.
However, due to the lenient verification process adopted by the government, identity theft and other issues were more prone to occur. Hogan explained so during a press conference in Ottawa.
“In 2020, the government decided to rely on information provided by applicants and limit prepayment controls to expedite helping people and employers affected by the pandemic,” she explained, after doing a “land acknowledgment.”
Hogan then added that “in doing so, it recognized there was a risk that some payments would go to ineligible recipients.”
Hogan references programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the wage subsidy which started in 2020.
The AG mentioned that according to her, these programs were crucial to helping Canadians.
Diane Lebouthillier essentially claimed the estimates are disproportionately high. Lebouthillier also questioned the independence of the AG.
The Auditor General was appointed by the Governor in Council, under the recommendations of the House of Commons, and the Senate. The Governor in Council was appointed under the recommendations of Justin Trudeau.