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

Vernon's spring leaf pickup program is underway. (File photo)
Vernon rakes up residents’ bagged leaves

Pickup this week, must be in clear plastic bags

Public input on the City of Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget is open until 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 19, 2021. (City of Enderby photo)
Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget open for public input

The proposed spending plan includes a 2.2 per cent tax increase; public input open until Monday

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
Coldstream students’ COVID advice praised by Interior Health

Grade 2 and 3 classes from Coldstream Elementary took over the Morning Star’s Letters page April 9

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon dealership gives Towne Cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘We walk in grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on a 4-day protest

The four-day trek on foot and by ferry will see them end at the legislature

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

Thw male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Mervin Mascarenhas giving one of his pens to Honorary JP-MP. Premier David Burt of Bermuda. (Image: Mervin Mascarenhas)
Kelowna man who made $90K ‘Space Pen’ recognized by dignitaries, sheikhs

Mervin Mascarenhas is the first Canadian to grace the cover of Millennium Millionaire Magazine

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks to return to play Sunday versus Leafs after COVID-19 outbreak

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Most Read