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Friday News Roundup 20.11.27: CRA evasion, CERB iniquities, White Rose and more

Wrapping up the odds and ends in this week’s Canadian accounting news

Author: Canadian Accountant

TORONTO, Nov. 27, 2020 – It was a busy, busy week for the odds and ends in news from the world of Canadian accounting, so let’s get right to it: 

International money transfers? Nothing here to see

The Canada Revenue Agency audited $450 billion in international money transfers in and out of Canada over the last three years and referred exactly zero to federal prosecutors. That came as something of a surprise even to nonpartisan observers, according to the Toronto Star, considering that past audits resulted in numerous criminal investigations. 

CERB blurb gets kicked to the curb?

Late last week, the Postmedia Network claimed “more than 800,000 ineligible people got Canada emergency response benefit cheques.” The story was based on an article by Blacklock’s Reporter, a subscription-based online news platform based in Ottawa, which appeared to conflate ineligibility with not filing one’s income taxes (we can’t tell; it’s behind a paywall). 

PressProgress and BetterDwelling subsequently reported that, as the Canada Revenue Agency and economist Lindsay Tedds pointed out, filing taxes is not a requirement to be considered eligible for CERB. It just means that, if the CRA documents are accurate, 800k Canadians who did not file a tax return last year filed for CERB. While the National Post appears to have pulled its story, you can also read the original article on the webpage of the Toronto Sun (at time of this writing). 

Did 200k Canadians really double-file for CERB?

Meanwhile, speaking of confusion, the CBC reported that the CRA is warning 213,000 Canadians that they might have to pay back CERB overpayments. It seems that some Canadians may have applied through both the Service Canada and the CRA My Account portals, rather than one or the other. For now, the CRA is labelling overpayments an “honest mistake.” 

Bonnie Lysyk, equal opportunity auditor general

Nobody owns the Auditor General of Ontario, that’s for sure. Widely considered to have at least contributed to the downfall of the long-reigning Liberal government, Bonnie Lysyk was the target of a wrathful news conference from Premier Doug Ford (“There’s a big problem with an accountant that starts giving me health advice or vice versa, or the docs trying to give me economic advice.”) 

Lysyk’s crime? Basically saying that the Tories had botched the job on COVID-19 because Ford had stuck with beleaguered medical officer of health David Williams. This article in the Toronto Star is insightful but we published a whole series on Canada’s “activist auditors general” that is worth reading. 

MNP, RSM among fims in the news

Homegrown Canadian accounting firm MNP continues its hot M&A streak, snatching up Lise Deleurme Chartered Professional Accountant Inc., which is based in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Manitoba. And RSM Canada, which is just a few years old, has been recognized among Canada's Most Admired™ Corporate Cultures for 2020 by Waterstone Human Capital, a cultural talent management firm. 

Ontario support for family’s fraud?

And speaking of mistakes, honest or otherwise, a Richmond Hill, Ontario family is under investigation for alleged theft of $11M of COVID-19 relief funds. According to documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court, a KPMG audit found thousands of payments from the Ontario Support for Families program to accounts created in the names of members of the family and their associates. The irony is that the patriarch of the family worked for the provincial government as the head of the IT department in charge of administering the program. 

Maritime taxpayers get whiff of White Rose liabilities

The Canadian Press reported this week that taxpayers may be on the hook for the cost of decommissioning the huge White Rose oilfield off the coast of St. John's. According to accounting professor Thomas Schneider, who actually authored a paper on decommissioning costs, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador would owe a royalty refund to Husky Energy if decommissioning costs run over budget. 

The issue of decommissioning energy projects across Canada has become a concern during the plunging of oil prices. Typically, decommissioning costs are not public information, which minimizes the costs of potential liabilities to the public. 

In politics, ethics are all relative

Heather Mallick writes some pretty funny columns for the Toronto Star. On Monday, she took aim at Chartered Professional Accountant Yasmin Ratansi, the Liberal MP for Don Valley East, who was caught hiring her sister as an office assistant. One wonders if a victim of the politician’s alleged bullying leaked the matter to the press. Mallick, an equal-opportunity satirist, also takes aim at Andrew Scheer’s affirmative action practices.  

By Canadian Accountant staff.

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