Some of you may recall Anita Anand, the Liberal MP serving as minister of defence, that hosted an event in Cobourg, Ontario last September that I attempted to attend as media. The email invitation to the $500/ticket event stated that the “Liberal Party is committed to openness and transparency… that they are committed to the strongest standards in federal politics for open and transparent fundraising events (including media coverage).”
However, I was prevented access and Anand showed up one hour late to her own one and a half hour slotted event.
Her personal driver sped past me in a tinted-out Cadillac CTS, an executive luxury vehicle, whose tint appeared to be more than the 30% allowable visible light transmission rate set out by the Ontario Highway Safety Act.
The driver tried to get Anand as close to the entrance as possible while she ran inside, all that effort so she could skirt a simple question from an independent journalist. That is how committed to openness and transparency the Liberal government is.
Now serving as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minister of national defence, Anand apparently inadvertently awarded her husband’s company hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID related contracts over 18 competitors.
Anand’s husband, John Knowlton, is the senior managing director and business manager at OMERS Infrastructure (Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System) and the executive vice president of it’s subsidiary, Borealis Infrastructure.
He is also on the board of directors for LifeLabs and Teranet Inc.
Last June, LifeLabs was given $66,307,424.00 worth of contracts from the government, including fees to manage COVID-19 test kits for foreign travellers entering into Canada. A month later, it received another $1.9 million contract. This was during the same time period that Anand was the minister of public Service and procurement.
Three companies — LifeLabs, Dynacare and Switch Health — were awarded federal contracts to manage COVID-related testing and screening for a total of $631 million. Of that, LifeLabs provided testing services to British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Yukon with a contract of up to $111 million.
LifeLabs went from doing minimal amounts of business with the federal government in 2019 to receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. As early as December 2021, it appeared that Anand did not disclose that her husband is a director of LifeLabs, under the Conflicts of Interest Act.
Despite this, Anand claims to have had no part in the decision making process and the signing was appointed to the minister of employment, Carla Qualtrough.