Officials mum on how much Bank of China, anti-abortion groups got in wage subsidy

© Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press The Canada Revenue Agency building is seen in Ottawa, Monday April 6, 2020.

The federal government isn’t saying how much money several Chinese state-owned enterprises and anti-abortion groups got through the wage subsidy.

The Canada Revenue Agency on Monday released a searchable registry of the 339,938 businesses, charities and non-profits that have applied for and received the wage subsidy so far.

But a spokesperson for the agency said tax law only allows the publication of “the name of any person or partnership that makes an application,” not the amount they receive.

Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News, has previously disclosed it is among those receiving the wage subsidy as well as the amounts received in its quarterly financial records.

Read more: Bank of China, anti-abortion groups among coronavirus wage subsidy recipients

The CRA’s registry of recipients includes several Chinese state-owned enterprises, including the Bank of China, one of that country’s largest commercial banks; Sinopec Canada, owned by the Chinese Petrochemical Company; PetroChina, Canada, majority-owned by China’s state petroleum corporation; Air China, one of that country’s largest carriers; and China Mobile, a major telecommunications firm.

It also includes anti-abortion groups like Campaign Life Coalition and the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which frequently displays graphic material in its poster and mailing campaigns, as well as more than a dozen so-called crisis pregnancy centres.

The centres have come under heavy criticism from sexual health advocates in recent years amid reports they offer misleading information to pregnant individuals, including claims not backed by science.

Read more: Pro-choice advocates want crisis pregnancy centres defunded and regulated

While a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government plans to review the program criteria in light of state-owned entities accessing the funds, officials are so far providing no information on whether that will include asking for repayment of the funds or changing the criteria.

Applicants are currently required only to prove a drop in revenue.

The CRA registry webpage notes that anyone who suspects a wage subsidy recipient is misusing the subsidy can report “suspicious activity” to the agency’s Leads Program.

READ MORE: One quarter of Canada’s small businesses report staff refusing to return to work, survey suggests

The wage subsidy was first rolled out earlier in the spring and has been modified several times since.

The program currently works by subsidizing up to 75 per cent of eligible payroll expenses for eligible businesses, charities and non-profits who have seen a revenue decline of 30 per cent or more.

Entities that fraudulently received the subsidy can be asked to return the amount they received plus up to 25 per cent extra if, for example, they are found to have artificially lowered their revenues.

As of Dec. 13, the program has given out $54 billion in wage subsidies, and is slated to remain in place until June 2021.

Other government programs assessing eligibility for access to taxpayer funds, such as the Canada Summer Jobs program, disqualify applicants whose activities “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services” or that advocate discrimination.

One government official said the focus of the wage subsidy was on getting money out the door as quickly as possible, but that the government will continue defending reproductive rights.

The World Health Organization warned in the summer that the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruptions to access to sexual health services such as abortion and contraceptives.

Some seven million unplanned pregnancies are expected globally as a result of those disruptions.

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Source: Global News