Debt is a Moral Issue Part III: Follow the Money

The classic 1976 film All the President’s Men chronicles the Washington Post investigation into the Watergate scandal that would bring down U.S. President Richard Nixon. There is a key moment in the film where a source instructs the reporters to “follow the money”. By doing so, they uncover a web of political slush-funds, payoffs and corruption that went straight to the top.

In the fall economic update, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced an unprecedented $381 billion deficit—with the possibility of an additional $100 billion in post-COVID-19 stimulus spending. While the Liberal Government has been very open about the overall numbers, they have been far from transparent when it comes to where, specifically, that money has gone.

In an interview, last December, former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page—who now heads the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa—stated the Liberals fiscal update made him feel like he had a hangover.

“It’s impossible to read. I have been doing this for years and I can’t even follow the money.”

Page went on to call the lack of information and transparency “corrosive”.

“I hope it’s not deliberate,” said Page, “But when we go out and tell people we can’t follow the money trust is broken.”

In recent months, CBC news has done an in-depth investigation into government spending during the first eight months of COVID-19. Despite a flurry of roadblocks, stonewalling and redacted documents, they have determined that the government spent approximately $241 billion.

That leaves both the Liberals—and Canadian taxpayers—with a problem. Even if you add the (approximately) $20 billion deficit the Liberals ran in 2019 to that number, that still leaves $120 billion of the deficit unaccounted for.

Where did that money go?

While I can understand the initial need to get money out the door quickly to help struggling Canadians, the reality is the Liberals failed time and again to put the proper safeguards in place to protect those same Canadian taxpayers from fraud and abuse. In fact, those responsible for adjudicating claims were told to ignore red flags and just get the money out the door.

As a result, during the first wave some five million Canadians lost their job or had their hours reduced but almost nine million people received CERB benefits.

That alone should give Canadians pause, but the issues go far beyond a lack of oversight.

We are all familiar with the scandal involving the WE Charity that saw the Liberal Government give a $912 million contract to an organization that had paid members of the Trudeau family hundreds of thousands of dollars for appearances at their events.

The Liberals awarded an $84 million contract to the firm that employed Trudeau Chief of Staff Katie Telford’s husband, Rob Silver.

They awarded a $237 million contract to a brand-new company owned by former Liberal MP Frank Baylis to produce ventilators that lacked regulatory approval from Health Canada (at $100 million over market price).

The list, like the spending, goes on and on.

It won’t be Justin Trudeau and the Liberals who will pay for their deficits and scandals. It will be you, your children and your grandchildren.

Next week, as we wrap up this series of articles, I’ll show just how much.