Government must crack down on horses committing CERB fraud, says head of Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Aaron Wudrick raises important questions: Did the horse steal a human’s identity, or did a human steal the horse’s identity?
Photo: Mona Eendra

“Won’t anyone think of the horses??” — Aaron Wudrick, probably

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This morning something magical happened on Twitter. The president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Aaron Wudrick, was on a tear. The object of his ire? An estimated 2 per cent fraud rate in CERB applications. His loins were lathered, his nostrils were flared and his eyes rolled wildly in his head as he demanded to know why the government wasn’t cracking down on the rampant problem of horse fraud — or at least that’s how I imagine him.

Maybe he had one juice box too many this morning, or perhaps he’s secretly a horse in a human suit. Who am I to say, really?

“Where did I say ‘I know for a fact horses can get CERB cheques?’”

What I do know is that he delivered us all a beautiful cadeau in these trying times — the gift of laughter.

As many, many readers pointed out, that would be quite a trick since horses generally don’t have social insurance numbers, and you need to provide a valid SIN to apply for the CERB.

The credulous Mr. Wudrick got played by a correspondent, whose tongue was likely planted firmly in cheek, and broadcast this embarrassing failure of critical thinking skills to the world.

But, dear reader, it gets better. If you were caught in such an equine blunder you’d probably log off, rethink the trust you place in anonymous correspondents and ponder night classes in deductive reasoning. But not our Aaron. Not the people’s champ. He was determined to make us laugh some more.

So instead of acknowledging his hilarious blunder, he doubled down, again and again.

“Where did I say ‘I know for a fact horses can get CERB cheques?’ I relayed a real email I got in response to a real concern. Its truly enlightening to know who seems more interested in focusing on this anecdote rather than potential fraud costing hundreds of millions of dollars,” he wrote on Twitter.

That’s our Aaron, asking the tough questions — like, can horses get CERB cheques? He doesn’t know the answer, but asking the question was brave. Or something like that.

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This went on for a while, as more people came upon the glorious gift tweet and took it up for a dunk, and Wudrick got increasingly agitated in his replies.

“Did it occur to you,” he responded to one interlocutor, “that people who are prepared to commit fraud might also lie about SINs?”

Good point! Oh wait. No, just another random firing of neurons. The application process requires a valid SIN tied to your name. The nine random digits you assigned your horse for shits and giggles simply won’t do.

“Unless someone committed identity theft,” retorted Aaron. Another good idea. But did the horse steal a human’s identity, or did a human steal the horse’s identity? And if you did manage to steal someone’s identity, and their valid SIN, why would you give it to a horse? So many questions.

On the plus side, Aaron did learn something from his ordeal.

“Learning a lot today about who’s more concerned about the specific manner of CERB fraud than the possibility of CERB fraud itself. Carry on.”

Not the something one would hope for, but you have to give the lad credit for trying. Someday he’ll figure it out.

Donkey-brained nob polisher to the billionaire class

All kidding aside, I’m sure Wudrick is a smart fellow. After all, he’s been entrusted with the keys to a lobby group that fights tirelessly for the interests of billionaires. They don’t let just any valet park the Maserati, and his spittle no doubt leaves their boots sparkling.

To forestall any argument that the CTF truly has the best interests of taxpayers at heart, I encourage you to search Aaron’s timeline for any denunciation of Trudeau’s decision not to bar companies registered in tax havens from receiving federal assistance. That’s a true outrage to ordinary taxpayers in this country.

You won’t find it, because the CTF doesn’t give a shit about companies that refuse to pay their taxes. The last mention of tax havens that can be found in Wudrick’s tweets is a thread from September 2017, responding to an article calling for tax avoidance to be treated as a bipartisan issue.

“My favorite part,” complains Wudrick in the thread, “was the implicit assertion that ensuring government gets as much revenue as possible is the paramount concern.”

Wudrick has tweeted about his opposition to illegal tax evasion in the past, but on legal forms of tax avoidance that see companies register in tax havens to avoid paying Canadian taxes he is surprisingly mute.

I’d expect an organization that represents me as a taxpayer to be as outraged as I am over the Trudeau government’s decision to include tax haven–registered companies in their corporate bailout. I’d expect them to regularly bang the drum to close the loopholes that allow companies that operate in Canada to avoid paying Canadian taxes. But on Wudrick’s timeline? Crickets.

I wonder why.

Who funds the Canadian Taxpayers Federation?

The highly secretive “taxpayer” organization doesn’t release the names of its donors, but as David Climenhaga reported for The Tyee in 2018, it is a “partner” of the Atlas Foundation (now the Atlas Network).

“When asked directly if the CTF has received grants, training, awards or other support from Atlas, CTF President and CEO Troy Lanigan said, for the record, that he does not ‘share donor confidentiality.’ Those who wish to deduce from this that Atlas is confirmed as a donor are, presumably, free to do so,” wrote Climenhaga.

He described Atlas as an “influential right-wing U.S. organization that boasts it ‘inspires and incentivizes’ like-minded groups in 29 countries.”

A 2017 article on the Atlas Foundation by The Intercept’s Lee Fang reported that it received funding from foundations run by the notorious Koch brothers and distributed over $5 million to its partners in 2016 alone.

According to Atlas’ website, it has a dozen partners in Canada, including market-fundamentalist think tanks like the Fraser Institute, Montreal Economic Institute, and Manning Centre; several groups that specialize in suing the government to advance right-wing policy goals; and even groups with more centrist branding, like the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy and the Institute for Liberal Studies.

Time to call a shitweasel a shitweasel

But why am I picking on poor Aaron and his hilarious ideas about fraudulent horses?

While he and his organization are presented in most mainstream media outlets as a credible, non-partisan advocate for ordinary taxpayers, the truth is that this is just another nest of callous shitweasels, seemingly funded by U.S. billionaires, advocating for policies that will make the rich richer while harming the rest of us.

Aaron has been silent on the subject of bailouts for corporations registered in tax havens, but he’s been unrelenting in his criticisms of the CERB, which he would like to see wound down as soon as possible — kicking millions of the taxpayers he supposedly represents off government support.

He’s a platinum-level member of the death cult who would rather sacrifice the lives of low-wage workers than see them get a raise or a safe workplace. These jabronis want to cut off government support so workers are forced to return to minimum-wage jobs in unsafe workplaces. They want the economy reopened right away, and they won’t be the ones paying the price if governments are foolish enough to take their advice. All so they can continue generating profits for billionaires like Jeff Bezos, whose wealth has shot up as a result of COVID-19 and now threatens to top a trillion dollars. Stop and write that number down.

This pandemic has been devastating for low-wage workers, but for Wall Street and Bay Street it’s been raining profits. The stock market is doing fine as the real economy collapses. The only problem for bosses is figuring out how to force workers in public-facing jobs, who were fired when this started, to risk their lives and come back to sell sweaters. If the government gives them $2,000 a month, they have the option to stay home until it's safe — which is good for society, but bad for business.

We’ve allowed this death cult to flourish in the shadows for too long. But now the stakes are too high, and too many lives are on the line.

It’s time to call these cult members out every chance we get. My civility is reserved for those who aren’t trying to get my friends and neighbours killed to boost the bottom line of billionaires. Death cultists deserve nothing but our contempt. Do they have any shame? Let’s see if we can find out.

Postscript

Unlike the CTF, Ricochet doesn’t partner with foreign jag offs. Unlike Postmedia, we aren’t owned by a U.S. hedge fund. Nearly all of our funding comes from small donors who give $5, $10 or $25 a month to support public interest journalism. And as you can see from our front page, we do a lot of good journalism. It’s not all trash-talking callous shitweasels around here.

If we want to fight the death cult, and build a better society on the other side of this crisis, we need strong, independent media outlets whose opinion pages aren’t dominated by ossified monsters whose opinions haven’t changed since the 1980s.

We need media that represents the position of a majority of Canadians on issues like taxing the rich and implementing a Green New Deal.

Thankfully, there is now a broad network of independent and crowdfunded media outlets that serve the public interest in this country. If you have the means, please set up a monthly recurring donation to one (or more!) of us.

We serve the public interest, not corporate interests. And with your support we can be the future of media in this country.

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