Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez looks towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they take part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez looks towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they take part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal Liberals propose special committee to examine pandemic-related spending

Conservative have a motion to create a special “anticorruption” committee to investigate the WE fiasco

The minority Liberal government is attempting to pre-empt opposition efforts to create a special committee to investigate alleged corruption by proposing its own special committee to examine billions of dollars of COVID-19 pandemic-related spending.

The proposal is also aimed at trying to break the impasse over the WE Charity affair that has bogged down two House of Commons committees in marathon meetings for the past two weeks.

A Conservative motion to create a special “anticorruption” committee to investigate the WE fiasco and other alleged unethical conduct during the pandemic is slated for debate and a vote next week.

Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez would not rule out Friday declaring that vote a test of confidence in the minority government.

That could be a risky move, given that all three main opposition parties have expressed support for the idea of a special committee that could take over the investigation of the WE affair and look into other alleged scandals.

Rodriguez’s counter-proposal would empower a special committee to scrutinize all government spending during the pandemic, including but not exclusively the WE affair and anything else opposition parties deem troubling.

Rodriguez said he’s been discussing his proposal with his opposition counterparts and has “not yet” secured the support of at least one party, which the Liberals would need to proceed with their proposal — and to survive a possible confidence vote on the Conservative motion.

“But I’m confident that they want to do exactly what we want to do, so serious work in a serious committee,” he said in an interview.

By contrast, he characterized the Conservatives’ proposed anticorruption committee as “irresponsible” and “pure partisan politics” aimed at “totally jamming the government” when it should be focused on helping Canadians weather the second wave of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

He dodged when asked if the vote on the Conservative motion will be considered a confidence matter, saying that “the only thing” he’s focusing on at the moment is his own proposal for a “reasonable” special committee.

Rodriguez said he’s willing to discuss his proposal with the Conservatives but it was clear he’s counting on either the Bloc Québécois or the NDP to accept it.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said his party is willing negotiate with the government but the Liberals “have to recognize they’ve burnt a lot of goodwill” by filibustering and shutting down committees.

A number of conditions would have to be met to secure NDP support, he added, among them: the special committee must be chaired by an opposition MP and the government must agree to stop filibustering opposition attempts to get more documents related to the WE affair.

“If the Liberals are not willing to work with us, we will find a way to make this committee happen,” Angus said in an interview, adding that if the Conservative motion is “the only option on the table” next week, New Democrats will look at supporting it.

The NDP has proposed its own motion calling for a special committee to scrutinize pandemic-related spending, but in the context of what it calls “troubling allegations of misuse of public funds.”

Bloc House leader Alain Therrien did not seem enthusiastic about Rodriguez’s proposal.

“There was a lot of spending during COVID and it is important for parliamentarians to look at it,” he said in a statement Friday. “That does not exclude the need for a special committee to shed light on the WE Charity scandal.”

Conservative MP Michael Barrett, one of the sponsors of the Conservative motion, said the Liberals want a committee that “doesn’t look at corruption and unethical behaviour.” He expressed confidence that neither the Bloc nor the NDP would support it.

Barrett also accused Rodriguez of floating his proposal to deflect attention from the fact that Liberal MPs have paralyzed the work of several Commons committees as they filibuster opposition efforts to reopen investigations into the WE affair, which were ended when Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August.

The finance committee was tied up for hours Thursday over a Conservative motion denouncing redactions to more than 5,000 pages of WE-related documents released last August. And the ethics committee was similarly stalled for hours over a Conservative motion demanding that Speakers’ Spotlight, the agency that arranged speaking events for Trudeau, his wife, mother and brother, turn over receipts for all the Trudeaus’ paid engagements over the past 12 years.

The Conservative motion to create a special committee includes House orders for unredacted government WE documents and the Speakers’ Spotlight documents, as well as documentation on other “scandals or potential scandals.”

The other alleged scandals include allegations that the husband of Trudeau’s chief of staff may have benefited from the government’s program for commercial rent relief and improperly lobbied for changes to the emergency wage-subsidy programs — which federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion has already dismissed as speculative and without evidence.

They also include a contract given to former Liberal MP Frank Baylis’s company for ventilators not yet approved by Health Canada.

Rodriguez said the motion would require public servants to pore through thousands of files to find all the documents sought, tying them up when they should be concentrating on the government’s response to the pandemic.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

paintearth
County of Paintearth council approves changes to Health and Safety policies

The policies were last reviewed and approved by council on Sept. 15th, 2017

Nate Horner
Nate Horner stops by Castor’s Paintearth Lodge on Oct. 19th

Another hot topic during the discussion was the visitor restrictions put in place to protect the residents

doc
Online program helps residents live well with chronic disease

Six-week series of free workshops runs Tuesdays in November and December

county
After unsuccessful attempts to contact owner, Throne property going to tax sale

Bidding will be closed as of the first council meeting in February of 2021

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read