The Big Spend
On Nov. 30, the federal government provided a fiscal update, highlighting the $322.3 billion it has committed to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. But specific information about who has received the emergency funds, and in what amounts, has been hard to come by.
Over the past two months, CBC News has been tracking publicly verifiable federal coronavirus expenditures and has identified $240 billion of the spending that has coursed through more than 100 different measures and programs.
Here’s a look at what we’ve found, using figures from the Parliamentary Budget Office and other government and public sources, between March 13 and Nov. 20, 2020. (See methodology below.)
Size of bubbles represents dollar amount
Government departments or agencies
Private businesses, non-profits and charitable organizations
Overall, the government's spending on business-related COVID-19 aid is equivalent to almost 30.5 per cent of all overall federal spending in 2018–19. Much of this money was delivered through programs that had to be created from scratch, which may not have been the most efficient method. According to the International Monetary Fund, nations that had pre-existing measures to deal with recessions, such as Germany’s Kurzarbeit program, delivered the most effective government aid.
A once-in-a-century threat to human health has unleashed an enormous federal response. Over the period from July 5 to Aug. 1, 2020, Ottawa was directly supporting 11,721,827 individuals via CERB and CEWS. That means almost 40 per cent of all Canadian adults were receiving government help.
CERB was the program with the greatest number of recipients and the highest total payout. This measure helped 8.9 million people. A slim majority — 51 per cent — were women. And the biggest beneficiaries were those between the ages of 25 and 34 — 2,114,750 unique recipients.
Number of CERB recipients by province and territory
Number of CERB recipients by age
Number of CERB recipients by gender
While the federal government provides overall spending numbers, there has been a lot less transparency about just how this money has been allocated — especially when it comes to businesses. With little being said about which companies have received assistance from the CEWS program and how much.
CBC News has examined the financial reports of publicly traded companies and found over 400 that have disclosed that they accessed at least one government assistance program. Air Canada appears to be the largest CEWS beneficiary, having received $492 million in wage subsidies. Imperial Oil was second at $120 million. The top 20 recipients identified by CBC News received a total of $1.693 billion in government assistance.
Many listed companies have yet to publicly report whether they received government aid, and private corporations have no such obligation.
According to the government's official figures, 380 companies received more than $5 million each in CEWS assistance while close to 3,500 businesses have received between $1 million and $5 million.
Here’s a look at the overall government numbers: