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

Environment Canada has issued a snow warning for the Kootenays on Friday. File photo
Environment Canada issues snow warning for Friday

Two-to-10 centimetres is expected to fall

Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Homeowner intends to dispute COVID tickets after backyard party near Grand Forks

Brody Peterson said bands that played at his home shut down before the 11 o’clock cut off

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Trail Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Opioid crisis

Seventh in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

Touchstones Museum has opened up Nelson’s Cold War bunker to the public. The unique exhibit includes artifacts from the 1950s and 60s. Photo: Tyler Harper
Take cover! Cold War bunker opens to public in Nelson

The shelter was built in 1964 in case of nuclear fallout

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Most Read