Thousands of ineligible small businesses got bailouts – why isn’t Ford taking it back?

By Sabrina Almeida

I’m not surprised! Neither are most South Asians, several of whom took undue advantage of the government’s open wallet, or know “small business” owners who did. 

Many are probably laughing at the province’s ignorance, or shaking their heads in indignation at its sheer callousness. 

However you may look at it and whatever the reason for the missteps – all Ontarians will be paying for it in more ways than one.

Isn’t it sad? 

Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, even naïve in my observations. It seems like the government already knew what was going to happen. Our premier simply shrugged off questions saying that although unfortunate, some fraud was inevitable. 

In that case, did his government deliberately do nothing to prevent it from happening?

It’s not just you and me that are being crabby about this. Nor are we being unreasonable to expect that proper process should have been put in place to access these critical bailouts.

“Given the amount of money, the absence of better controls or assessment processes is troubling,” Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said in a statement.

But Doug Ford says his government moved quickly to put money into the hands of struggling businesses. He believes that fast tracking the funds was more important than ensuring the support went to people who needed it. 

He further justified his government actions, or more likely lack of it, saying that the $210 million that went into the wrong hands was miniscule when compared to the good the provincial pandemic supports did. 

“I think more people benefited than got hurt,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that were supported to a tune of $3.3 billion.”

Being an average person, I’m not conditioned to look at the big picture like Ford and other politicians do. So, I’m hung up on the over $200 million that was siphoned off by fraudsters. I’m even more upset that there’s no attempt to get it back… and because I am aware of how some of these fraudsters used it for personal gain like investing in real estate and driving up housing prices further.

But wait a minute, even the auditor general said $210 million was a lot to lose!!! She also called out the lack of effort to get it back.

Lysyk’s report also pointed out that it didn’t serve businesses that really needed the support. Does this mean it actually didn’t do as much good as Ford wants us to believe then???

So, now it’s several small business owners who were left behind and us that are upset with Ford.

According to Lysyk, a lack of clear goals and consultation with “most-affected” businesses combined with poorly defined eligibility criteria were the reasons for the mess.

“Even in a crisis, systems should be in place to make sure that only eligible businesses receive taxpayer dollars, and program funds reach those who need it most,” said Lysyk.

Everything being a learning experience — and this one comes at the expense of many struggling businesses and all taxpayers — the Ford government is looking ahead to making improvements to prevent future fraud.

But it’s not doing the one thing that might be most effective – taking back the money from the fraudsters! The lack of consequence sets a dangerous precedent as it opens the door to more fraud. Isn’t that a lesson the government ought to learn right away???

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