ArriveScam supplier remains tight-lipped on who awarded him 'sweetheart contacts'

'Who did you sit at the table with?' asked Conservative MP Kelly Block. 'Apologies, I have to speak with my lawyer,' replied Kristian Firth, partner at GC Strategies, and benefactor of ArriveCan 'sweetheart contracts.'

ArriveScam supplier remains tight-lipped on who awarded him 'sweetheart contacts'
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ArriveCan partner Kristian Firth has been censured by a Commons committee for refusing to name federal managers who cut sweetheart contracts worth millions. MPs repeatedly asked him for names, but Firth deflected, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“Who did you sit at the table with?” asked Conservative MP Kelly Block. “Apologies, I have to speak with my lawyer,” replied Firth.

The firm partner acknowledged Wednesday to meeting with Marc Brouilliard, IT manager to the Treasury Board, in private. He also met with former Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) director general Cameron MacDonald, another CBSA manager Antonio Utano, and Philippe Johnston, formerly chief information officer with the Department of Transport.

“Did you ever meet with Philippe Johnson in a private residence or any place other than a government office?” asked Conservative MP Michael Barrett. “I have met with Philippe Johnson outside of work, yes,” replied Firth.

“Where?” asked Barrett. “At a pub,” replied Firth. “When?” he asked. “2021,” replied Firth.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, his testimony contradicted remarks made last November 2. “Have you ever met with government officials outside of government offices?” Barrett asked at the time. “No, I have not,” replied Firth.

“What makes you so lucky that you got this opportunity?” asked Conservative MP Garnett Genuis. Firth did not reply.

Moreover, attempts to get straight answers proved uneventful — despite being under oath — angering committee members after four hours of testimony.

“As a result of this being pushed to the RCMP … I cannot comment on an ongoing RCMP investigation,” said Firth. The partner is subject to an ongoing police investigation into complaints of contract irregularities.

GC Strategies, a two-man consultancy situated in a bungalow, received $107.7 million in contracts before facing an indefinite suspension from federal procurement on February 14.

According to a Public Works briefing note, the federal government considered these charges to be “fair and reasonable” despite running multi-million-dollar cost overruns. 

“The department is committed to open, fair and transparent procurement processes while obtaining the best possible value for Canadian taxpayers,” said the briefing note Contracts Related To ArriveCan. It is dated December 11, only weeks before separate investigations blasted the ArriveCan contracts as ‘unfair’ and ‘secretive.’

In 2022, Firth’s company received a $25.3 million contract with “overly restrictive” terms that favoured him over 40 competitors, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Procurement Ombudsman Alexander Jeglic considered this “highly unusual.”

Two days prior to the suspension, Auditor General Karen Hogan learned that federal managers handed out non-competitive contracts to GC Strategies, who never put forward a proposal despite receiving the first ArriveCan contract, worth $2.35 million.

As part of their $19.1 million in contracts for the pandemic application, the firm received 46 total that involved a non-competitive application process.

"The Canada Border Services Agency informed us that GC Strategies was awarded the contract on the basis of a proposal that it submitted," she wrote in her scathing report on federal contracting. "We found that the agency received a proposal from one of the three potential contractors, but this proposal was not from GC Strategies."

"This gave [them] an advantage that other potential bidders did not have," said Hogan.

On Wednesday, MPs unanimously approved a Conservative motion to censure Firth for his “refusal to answer questions,” including the federal manager that allowed him to dictate contract terms.

“Are we in agreement with this then, colleagues? Agreed,” said Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, chair of the committee.  “Refusal to answer questions or failure to reply truthfully may give rise to a charge of contempt in the House,” he added.

MPs earlier threatened to have Firth arrested after he ignored summonses last November 2 and February 9.

“You are here only under the threat of arrest,” said Barrett. “That is what we are dealing with in trying to get answers from you.”

“I think you have a grave misunderstanding of how this process works,” he continued. “Your refusal to answer questions here is a contempt of Parliament.”

Barrett concluded his remarks by calling Firth a habitual liar. 

“In the Arrive-scam … you have demonstrated yourself to be a liar,” he said. “You have lied before a parliamentary committee on multiple occasions.” Firth did not comment.

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