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Perfect storm of cost

There could well be a perfect economic storm brewing for all of us, but especially those who have knowingly claimed benefits from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that they knew they weren’t eligible to receive.

With the recent announcement that CERB has been extended for another two months, at the end of the day the tab for the program is going to astronomical.

And while the program was much needed by those whose income was taken away due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those who gambled and abused CERB to the tune of $2,000 a month must be taken to task. And – with the financial crisis awaiting many parts, if not all, of the country when, and if, things finally get back to normal following the pandemic – you better believe they will be.

This country will simply not be able to ignore their actions and why should it? Can cheating on CERB be looked upon any differently than cheating on one’s income tax, employment insurance or social assistance payments? Absolutely not.

In fact, abusing such a program when the country continues to battle the pandemic and, for all intents and purposes, teeters on the brink of a national economic emergency should come with a hefty fine, and damn the devil in collecting every penny illegally claimed during this dark period.

It was almost humourous to hear Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq worry about sounding like a broken record as he warned Nunavummiut time-and-time again not to claim the CERB benefit unless their regular employment or income had been legitimately impacted by the pandemic – except that there was nothing funny about the premier’s warnings. Nothing funny at all.

The premier warned anyone abusing CERB that they may find themselves with a bill they cannot afford to repay in the future.

And that, indeed, could prove itself to be the ultimate destructive force in a perfect storm of financial gloom awaiting abusers of the CERB program when federal bean counters finally catch up to them.

The measures to address the pandemic in this country will continue and without, at this point, taking into consideration the potential costs of a second wave of the virus hitting, Canada’s net federal debt is being projected to top the $1-trillion mark in 2021.

No one knows what to expect as we slowly open up our country again, but prices may very well skyrocket in some areas and the cost of food is guaranteed to rise.

Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois recently pointed out that while the general inflation rate sits at -0.2 per cent, the food inflation rate is at 3.4 per cent.

And, this past December, Canada’s Food Price Report predicted a food inflation rate of about fourper cent for 2020, which is almost bang-on in the direction we’re headed.

The economic shock of Covid-19 will continue to help empty our wallets while shopping for groceries for quite some time, as food prices are increasing almost four times more rapidly than the price of any other durable goods in the economy.

This perfect economic storm looming on the horizon is going to be tough to weather for many of us, let alone those trying to repay illegally-gotten benefits from the CERB program.

And just in case you think the total price of the Covid-19 pandemic will be paid at various cash registers – an essay recently published in the Economist maintains that closing primary schools will more than likely widen the inequality gap by causing lifelong harm to much of the student population.

Food for thought!