Liberal-NDP cabal complains ‘too much time’ has been spent investigating ArriveCan

NDP MP Blake Desjarlais complained about the costs of investigating the ArriveCan boondoggle, while Liberal MP Iqra Khalid expressed frustration with having to meet over Zoom.

Liberal-NDP cabal complains ‘too much time’ has been spent investigating ArriveCan
The Canadian Press / Patrick Doyle and The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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The Liberal-NDP cabal did their best to waste time Tuesday morning during critical testimony from senior government officials on ArriveCan.

MP Blake Desjarlais, the lone New Democrat on the Commons public accounts committee, expressed concern with the prolonged investigation into the $59.5 million pandemic application. “I am getting more concerned about the cost to taxpayers that these surprise meetings are having,” he said.

“It’s a shame you’re spending money and playing games with Canadian taxpayers’ dollars,” Desjarlais told the committee last week. “Canadians expect us to be frugal,” he added. “They expect us to be reasonable. They expect us to use money for really good reasons.”

The public accounts committee summoned former Treasury Board and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) executives for cross-examination Thursday, but witnesses have refused to appear voluntarily, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

ArriveCan contracts have faced considerable pushback from auditors and MPs of late for being sole-sourced, and billing taxpayers upwards of $2,600 a day.

On Tuesday, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid attempted to filibuster proceedings at the standing committee on Public Accounts by using her allotted time to complain about why members were present for another meeting Tuesday.

“The fact we are sitting here, in our constituencies — the majority of us — trying to balance the support for our constituents, while also trying to make sure that we’re doing the important work in Ottawa … it’s very difficult.”

“I’ve had constituents who I’ve had to cancel meetings with,” claimed MP Khalid. The diatribe went on for several minutes, with mention that no sub-committee report has been tabled to date on its future business.

CBSA executives also testified Tuesday to speak on their handling of ArriveCan. They provided no clarity and frequently dodged MPs' questions. 

Committee chair John Williamson, a Conservative MP, interrupted MP Khalid for not speaking to the parliamentary motion on ArriveCan.

“You had given indication that you would have a colleague committee meeting on Thursday,” she said, “and yet, here we are on Tuesday for a three-hour meeting, which I am more than happy to discuss.”

Khalid condemned Williamson for not tabling a “workable work plan,” and proceeded to jest about the three-hour committee hearing Tuesday morning. 

“We can … have a collaborative approach as to how we’re going to run our committee, or we can … try to [clip] gotcha moments,” she said.

On Thursday, an NDP motion to provide a cost estimate of that hearing will be tabled that day, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Conservative MP John Nater dismissed the complaint from MP Desjarlais. “Taxpayers expect us to do the work 365 days a year regardless of when the House of Commons is in session,” he said.

The Commons Public Accounts committee is mandated to scrutinize federal waste, spending a total $13,541 on 44 meetings according to a Committee Activities And Expenditures report.

The committee last year met for a total of 83 hours, heard testimony from 237 witnesses and published 17 reports. Costs do not include salaries for MPs, clerks, translators and technicians who are paid regardless of whether the committee meets.

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