“Did you get your $2,000 this month?” my friend Luke McGluke asked me excitedly. Before I could answer, he said “I don’t understand why the government is giving us all $2,000 a month for nothing.” Eschia, take it easy eh.

I was walking when I met him. Making sure we were six feet apart, I said, “They’re not giving everybody $2,000 a month for nothing.”

Luke said, “Is it because they stole all of our land and took us away from our parents then put us in Residential Schools when we were kids?” I said no.
“Well why then?” he asked, shaking his head over this mystery.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with media during his isolation at Rideau Cottage March 17. Trudeau’s Liberals created the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to quickly get money into the hands of Canadians impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but those who receive the funds in error will have to pay them back, columnist Roy Erasmus Sr. writes.
photo courtesy of Justin Trudeau/Flickr

I explained that the money is supposed to go to people who were working for someone, or owned a business, on March 15, 2020 and had to stop working because of Covid-19.

Luke’s face got very pale and he asked, “What happens to people who didn’t work for a few years and still got the money, like my friend Jude?” I explained that she would have to pay the money back.

“What? I already spent the $4,000,” he yelled. His legs started to shake, and he sat down on a rock.

I asked Luke how he got his money, and he said, “Jude called me and said everybody’s getting $2,000. All you gots to do is call a certain number and answer a few questions and they send you the money.”

Oh my god, I thought, there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people in a few months.

Luke continued, “Jude gave me the number, and I called CERB and answered a few questions, and a couple a days later $2,000 appeared in my bank account.”

Then he said, “A few weeks later, I did it again. And like magic another $2,000 appeared in my bank account. I’ve been telling everybody I know and they’re all calling and getting $2,000 a month too.”

“Did your friends stop working because of Covid-19, and did they make over $5,000 working last year?” He started laughing so hard he almost fell down.

“Are you kidding? Most of them haven’t worked for years. And I’ve been drawing my government pension since I retired,” he said smugly.

“All you guys will have to pay that money back.” Luke snorted and replied, “Good luck getting money from a stone. Jude and her common-law haven’t worked since they were at the lodge two years ago.”

How government collects money

I started to explain how the government has broad powers to recover money. For instance, my friend owes money and he hasn’t worked much the last few years, so they keep his income tax and his GST.

Canada Revenue Agency can also have the bank freeze your accounts or take money out of your bank accounts to pay a tax debt. “I lose my income tax, GST and pension money?” croaked Luke. Yep, yep, yep.

Of course, Municipal Enforcement will also take away your driver’s licence until you pay up. Luke jumped up and cried, “Whoa, how am I going to get around?”Luke looked like he was ready to cry. So, I whipped out my phone and consulted with Google. I said, “don’t worry Luke, the CERB website says there won’t be a penalty if you received a payment in error.”

“But, you will have to repay the money.” Luke groaned, “Why did they make it so easy to get the money?” Google told me the Government made it easy because they wanted to get financial aid to Canadians as quickly as possible.

“Over the weeks and months to follow, we will definitely verify income and eligibility. Those who don’t qualify for the benefit will have to pay back the government,” said Carla Qualtrough, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

“What about if they think I didn’t just make an honest mistake?” asked Luke in a shaky voice.

I consulted Google again and told Luke, “I don’t know about CERB but if you knowingly lie on your Employment Insurance claims you can be fined up to 150 per cent of any overpayment you received.”

That would mean Luke would have to repay the $4,000 he received, plus get a $6,000 fine, for a total of $10,000.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” he said.

If you’re like Luke and received CERB money although you were not working on March 15, call 1-833-966-2099 or 1-833-699-0299 to see what you should do.

Roy Erasmus

Roy Erasmus Sr. Is a certified wellness counsellor who survived heart disease and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

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  1. I see a lot of suicide and the government will be to blame as the force the poverty people into more. Basicly sentencing them to death with fear