Mar. 27, 2021

Canada’s wage subsidy program? Secret, partial and general

You know you gotta dig sometimes. It’s just not readily apparent.

Of course, that’s like a lot like of Government programs isn’t it?

Yep, and The Federal Government’s wage subsidy program is a great example. Embedded in the recent Auditor General’s Report on the program one finds some disturbing reading. 

Like point 7. 27 

“We found that the Department of Finance Canada performed a partial analysis of the initial Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program because the department had only a few days and did not have the full information required to provide a formal analysis. Nonetheless, officials offered general considerations for some parameters of the program. However, because these considerations were part of Cabinet documents, they had to remain in confidence for all purposes.”

How do you like those bananas for getting to know how your money is spent? One would think the auditor general would have to comment on what he had just written – how empty it really was!

Then there are two other points 7.34 and 7.35:


“It is our view that, although the Department of Finance Canada performed a partial analysis of the initial design of the subsidy, it subsequently performed a sound and complete analysis to inform the changes to the subsidy program. We are also of the view that, of the announced extension of the program, parliamentarians ‘could ‘ benefit from knowing the economic effects of this program”.


Recommendation. The Department of Finance Canada “should” complete and publish an economic evaluation of its wage subsidy programs

The department’s response. Agreed. The Department of Finance Canada will prepare an evaluation and publish its findings in a coming edition of the Report on Federal Tax Expenditures.

You don’t say! Knowing the economic effects? Like, rather important one would think! Shouldn’t it be automatic? 

Parliamentarians could benefit – and the Department should complete?

The Government got itself a soft one there in this AG – how mild in dealing with those who are the guardians of our money?

And how about this?

“We found that in order to meet government objectives with regard to quick subsidy payments and because of a lack of data, the agency was able to conduct only ‘limited’ pre-payment validations for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The agency did not have all up-to-date earnings and tax data or sub-annual data – that is, for multiple points in time throughout a year. For example, 28 per cent of applicants did not file a GST/HST return for the 2019 calendar year.”

OK, just one more: 7.52

“During the period of the audit, when employers applied for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, they were required to declare, for each 4-week subsidy period, the total number of employees and the total payroll for which they were requesting the subsidy,  but they did not have to provide the employees’ name or social insurance number.

“We found that this lack of specific information limited the Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to conduct automated validations before payments were issued, which could have reduced overpayments that will need to be recovered later.’ 

Whew! Speechless!