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

Sicamous resident Paige Mounce says she has found numerous sick mice and rodents on her property. She wants the district to get started with a non-chemical treatment program so that other animals that might eat the poisoned rodents do not get sick. (Paige Mounce-Facebook)
Numerous rat complaints in Sicamous prompt look at pest control options

Resident warns chemical treatment dangerous to pets, livestock, wildlife

x
Morning Start: Bubble wrap was originally intended to be wallpaper

Your morning start for Monday, Oct. 26, 2020

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap’s Greg Kyllo faces third term and BC NDP majority

BC NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren celebrates party’s success

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Election 2020: Preliminary results show BC Liberal Greg Kyllo winning third term as Shuswap MLA

Kyllo expressed gratitude to voters and supporters as results rolled in on Oct. 24

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Multiple motor vehicle incidents stalled traffic between Kelowna and Vernon on Highway 97 after a morning snowfall Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Pam Wiebe Brunsdon - Facebook)
Slick roads on Monday commute around Vernon

Several accidents have been reported stalling highway traffic

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

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’

Most Read