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Liberals defend decision to have Crown corporation run COVID-19 rent program

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The federal Liberals are defending their decision to have the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. oversee a rent-relief program for small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The opposition Conservatives have questioned why the CMHC, rather than the Canada Revenue Agency, was asked to run the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, given the revenue agency manages several other pandemic-related support programs.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's spokeswoman Maeva Proteau says the CMHC was considered the best fit because it deals with mortgages and understands Canada's real estate market.

She says going with the Crown corporation was seen to be fastest because it could make payments to businesses without requiring new legislation, which would have further delayed the rent program.

The CMHC later contracted mortgage firm MCAP to administer the rent program — another choice the Tories have questioned, since an executive vice-president at the company is married to Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Prime Minister's Office says Telford followed proper ethical procedures when it came to the government's dealings with MCAP, while the Liberals and CMHC say the $84-million contract was awarded independent of any political involvement.




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