Conservatives eye subpoena threat for firm in ArriveCan controversy

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says it’s ‘obvious’ rules weren’t followed in ArriveCAN development'
Trudeau says it’s ‘obvious’ rules weren’t followed in ArriveCAN development
WATCH: With the ArriveCAN controversy recently resurfacing after the release of the Auditor General’s report last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that public servants who did not follow rules in the app’s development will face “consequences” after investigations – Feb 20, 2024

The Conservatives want to issue another formal summons for the owners of GC Strategies to appear before the government operations committee probing the ArriveCan controversy.

If they don’t appear, Conservatives want to see the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Commons take them into custody and compel their appearance.

“It is very rare. And it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this point, but it’s essential that we use this tool if these individuals continue to ignore. So, we’re going to summon them again,” Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters on Tuesday.

“And this time, though, there will be the understanding that if they ignore this summons, that there will be consequences.”

The ArriveCan app is under renewed parliamentarian scrutiny following a report from the auditor general last week. In her report, Karen Hogan found that nearly $60 million was spent on the app but could not come to a conclusive dollar figure due to poor record keeping.

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The motion indicates that GC Strategies owners Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony were previously summoned by the committee on Nov. 2, 2023.

Another summons was issued on Feb. 9, 2024, the motion says.

Firth and Anthony both previously appeared at the committee on Oct. 20, 2022.

Click to play video: 'Auditor general slams feds’ poor management of ArriveCAN app'
Auditor general slams feds’ poor management of ArriveCAN app

The motion was brought forward during the government operations committee meeting on Feb. 20. However, the vote did not take place as debates around amendments stretched to the end of the allotted meeting time.

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Scheer and fellow Conservative MP Larry Brock both accused Liberal MP Irek Kusmiercyzk of “running out the clock” as he offered a 25-minute reply to a sub-amendment on the Conservative motion at the tail end of the meeting.

Among Kusmiercyzk’s arguments, he said that they all want to find more answers on the ArriveCan situation, but he doesn’t feel they’ve reached the “nuclear option” yet of subpoenaing Firth and Anthony.

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“We don’t want to impact in anyway the RCMP looking at serious allegations they need to get to the bottom of. We need to be careful here,” Kusmiercyzk said during the meeting.

Last week the RCMP said that they are examining the auditor general’s ArriveCan report.

The NDP’s lead critic on ArriveCan Blake Desjarlais tells Global News that the party does want to see Firth and Anthony come forward to testify, and wants to go further than just ArriveCan.

Desjarlais argues this is part of broader issues with government IT-outsourcing and wants to go back to Firth and Anthony’s previous company, Coredal Systems Consulting, which received approximately $7 million in government contracts between 2010 and 2015.

“It is incumbent and something I agree with, that we summon these individuals to make clear their participation and, and, awareness to the government as stemming back as to their very first contract,” Desjarlais told Global News.

Click to play video: 'ArriveCAN: Poilievre grills Trudeau over $258M awarded to GC Strategies — IT firm with 4 employees'
ArriveCAN: Poilievre grills Trudeau over $258M awarded to GC Strategies — IT firm with 4 employees

“They’ve existed through both administrations, and they’ve benefited from this outsourcing scandal for decades. And we need to get to the bottom of it.”

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Currently, no formal concerns have been raised about Coredal System contracts.

However, Bloc Quebecois MP René Villemure says he intends to bring forward a motion in the ethics committee to study the rules of professional conduct in awarding contracts to GC Strategies and Coredal Systems.

The operations committee is scheduled to meet again Wednesday afternoon to continue discussion on ArriveCan.

Summons from committees are issued by bailiffs once adopted, but committees themselves don’t have the power to enforce those orders once issued by the bailiff — that’s where referral of the matter to the House of Commons comes in.

“Although they can send for certain persons, standing committees do not have the power to punish a failure to comply with their orders in this regard. Only the House of Commons has the disciplinary powers needed to deal with this type of offence,” according to parliamentary rules.

“If a witness refuses to appear, or does not appear, as ordered, the committee’s recourse is to report the matter to the House. Once seized with the matter, the House takes the measures that it considers appropriate.”

Scheer says Conservatives want the House to consider issuing a warrant for them to appear.

“In the past, there has been cooperation between the House of Commons and law enforcement agencies to ensure that Parliament’s orders are respected,” Scheer said.

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Speaking in Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that investigations into the ArriveCan contract process are ongoing and it is clear that rules were not followed.

“Public servants in this case did not follow the rules adequately. There will be and there are investigations and there will be consequences,” Trudeau said.

After this, Trudeau was asked in French if he would be in support of calling the owners of GC Strategies to committee. Trudeau repeated that investigations were ongoing, and said he’d already answered in English.

More to come

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