Statement by the Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier and Minister and of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough on the Auditor General of Canada (OAG)'s performance audit of Specific COVID-19 Benefits

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 6, 2022 /CNW/ - Following the tabling of the 2022 Fall Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, the Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough issued the following statement in response to the report entitled "Office of the Auditor General Performance Audit of COVID-19 Benefits", which included recommendations for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that our government needed to act decisively to save lives and the economy – and that's exactly what we did. As stated in the Auditor General's report, these benefit programs:

"achieved their objective to help Canada avoid a more severe contraction of the economy and the social consequences of, for example, a significant increase in poverty. This support allowed the economy to rebound and return to its pre-pandemic levels."

We could not agree more with the Auditor General in this regard. These programs protected Canadian workers, businesses, and the economy, from the worst impacts of the pandemic.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees from ESDC and CRA mobilized like never before to deliver critical emergency programs to support the millions of Canadians forced to stay at home in their efforts to limit the spread of the virus. These programs were designed and delivered quickly with the understanding that Canadians needed help immediately – not in weeks or months. With the support of Parliament, the Government determined that attestation-based application processes for both individual benefits and business subsidies was not only the most effective way to get money into the hands of Canadians rapidly, but that it was the only way to get support out when it was needed to save lives, keep food on families' tables and keep our economy afloat.

These programs were effective and delivered for Canadians' support through:

  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to 8.5 million people;

  • The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) to 2.3 million people;

  • The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (CWLB) to over 455,000 people;

  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) to 1.2 million people;

  • The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) to over 560,000 people; and

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to 460,000 businesses to keep 5.3 million employees on the payroll.

As CRA and ESDC continue compliance efforts, they will continue to take a responsible approach to pursue fraud and a compassionate approach that is responsive to the individual circumstances of Canadians and small and medium-sized businesses. Through this work, for example, CRA's audit results to date show that the vast majority of applicants met the requirements of the CEWS program.

We accept the Office of the Auditor General's (OAG) recommendations to improve the administration of Emergency Benefits as well as the recognition that the programs we administered were timely and effective in meeting the objectives of contributing to the reduction of poverty and inequality while supporting the economy.

SOURCE Canada Revenue Agency

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