Canada Child Benefit—Canada Revenue Agency

Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Canada Child Benefit—Canada Revenue Agency

(Report 4—2021 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada)

4 May 2021

Martin Dompierre
Assistant Auditor General

Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to discuss our report on the Canada Child Benefit, which was tabled in Parliament on February 25, 2021. Joining me today are Philippe Le Goff, who was the principal responsible for the audit, and Lucie Després, who led the audit team.

The Canada Child Benefit provides a non-taxable monthly payment to eligible families, based on their net family income. In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, the program allocated $24.5 billion to parents in Canada who were responsible for 5.9 million children under the age of 18. The Canada Child Benefit is a key public policy tool for reducing inequalities and poverty among low‑income families.

Overall, we found that the Canada Revenue Agency ensured that the payments to millions of eligible families were accurate and timely. The agency had effective systems and processes to assess the eligibility of recipients. However, we found opportunities to improve the program’s efficiency and prevent its misuse. For example, requiring proof of birth at the time of application for children under the age of 11 months who were born in Canada would help agency staff verify a family’s eligibility.

We also found that the agency sometimes lacked the latest information when it determined applicants’ eligibility for the program and when it calculated payments. For example, in the sample we analyzed, we found that the agency was not always informed of changes, such as when a recipient left Canada. Payments continued until the agency received updated account information or until a parent ceased filing a Canadian income tax return.

Our audit also examined the one-time payment made to support more families at the beginning of the pandemic in May 2020. We found that the modified formula extended the benefit to an additional 265,000 families. The one-time payments were found to be accurate.

Finally, we found that the female presumption concept presented a challenge for the administration of the program, especially because of the diversity of families in Canada today. According to the program’s conditions, benefit payments go to the parent who is the primary caregiver. By law, the primary caregiver is presumed to be the female parent. We found that in some cases, the parent who in reality had primary responsibility for the care of the child did not receive the payment initially. In our view, the administration of the program would gain in efficiency by enhancing its procedures and communications to mitigate the confusion and sensitivities caused by this concept.

The Canada Revenue Agency agreed with both of our recommendations.

Madam Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.