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Highlights of the March auditor general's reports on the pandemic and infrastructure

OTTAWA — Highlights from the federal auditor general’s reports released Thursday:

Canada wasn’t ready for a pandemic

Auditor Karen Hogan found that years of underfunding public health, despite the early warning from the SARS crisis in the early 2000s, left the country unaware of the impending danger and unable to react quickly to fight the novel coronavirus when it hit.

The federal government moved fast to send aid

Despite the rickety systems used to distribute federal money, the government acted rapidly to support individuals with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and businesses with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. Rather than waiting for perfection, Hogan found, the government chose speed. That came with the risk of sending money to people and businesses that shouldn’t have received it, but Hogan found that risk was reasonable in the circumstances. Nevertheless, the public service has a big job ahead of it in identifying cases where that happened and getting taxpayers’ money back.

A painfully slow infrastructure program

In an unrelated audit, Hogan found the government can’t show that its vaunted, $188-billion infrastructure plan is meeting its goals. The promise has been beset by spending setbacks, with billions left unspent or delayed until later this decade.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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