Dan Albas

COLUMN: Should we ignore fraud?

MP Dan Albas raises concerns about fraud surrounding COVID-19 benefit program

There are now currently 7.7 million Canadians collecting theCanadian Emergency Response Benefit across Canada.

This CERB benefit program was one that had support of MPs from all parties in the House of Commons.

I believe that most Canadians would agree with the importance of a financial assistance program to assist citizens during an unprecedented economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

At the same time, I also believe that Canadians would expect the government to distribute these funds with integrity and in a manner that is respectful of your tax dollars.

Unfortunately this week we learned that may not be the case.

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Ongoing changes to federal assistance

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Questions remain about benefit packages

Both the CBC, and in greater detail, the National Post have reported some alarming news.

To quote from the National Post: “A memo told employees not to halt payment or trigger investigations for potential abuse, while department has suspended ‘compliance and enforcement’ of EI program”

It has been further reported that potentially “200,000 (CERB) applications have already been “red-flagged” as possibly fraudulent because of dubious claims of past employment income and other factors.”

And now we learn that federal civil servants have been instructed to ignore CERB applications they consider potentially fraudulent.

I had the opportunity to directly ask the Prime Minister during a recent virtual Parliament session if he or any of his ministers had signed off on this disturbing memo that instructs civil servants to ignore potential cases of fraud.

Despite asking several times, the Prime Minister refused to directly answer my questions, if he or any minister signed off on this policy.

The Prime Minister will only state, “In this unprecedented situation, our focus has been on helping as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”

While I suspect no one will dispute the desire to assist those in need, the question remains, did the Prime Minister or one of his ministers direct civil servants to ignore fraud?

This is potentially $400 million per month in fraudulent CERB payments.

The Prime Minister stated that, at some point in the future, his government will clean up fraudulent claims “after the fact” but then who authorized this policy to ignore fraud as it happens?

The PM only now declaring his government will clean up after the fact, once the possible fraud has been leaked by civil servants, raises serious and troubling questions on how this government spends your tax dollars.

My question this week: Is there ever a time where you believe a government should intentionally ignore potential fraud when it comes to a taxpayer financed program?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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