ArriveCan contractor summoned to be admonished

Enacting an extraordinarily rarely used parliamentary power, MPs have summoned an ArriveCan contractor to appear before the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon to be admonished publicly for failing to answer their questions.

The all-party decision to force GC Strategies partner Kristian Firth to appear before the bar of the House of Commons – the brass rod extending across the floor of the Chamber barring those uninvited from passing – was made last week after some procedural deliberation and collaboration.

Firth is scheduled to appear around 3 p.m. ET, following question period. There, he will be admonished by the Speaker for what MPs have deemed to be his “prevaricating” testimony before the committee probing the controversy surrounding the ArriveCan application.

Then, he is expected to face successive rounds of questioning by MPs from all parties, in an effort to illicit the information they feel he has, to-date, failed to provide, in part out of his refusal to answer certain questions, citing other ongoing probes.

A series of questions have been raised, damning reports issued, and further investigations have been sparked regarding improper contracting and management practices in connection with the contentious COVID-19-era border app.

Auditor General Karen Hogan has said Canadians “paid too much” for the app, even though she could not establish whether the estimated $59.5-million price tag amounts to the true cost on account for poor record keeping by the various parties involved, including GC Strategies.

MPs agreeing to find Firth in contempt of Parliament and ordering him to both appear and face questions will go down in the history books as it’s a measure that has so seldom been used.

The last time MPs summonsed an individual was in 2021, when the then-head of the Public Health Agency of Canada was scolded for failing to turn over documents related to the Winnipeg lab affair.

Prior to that, according to the House of Commons, the last time a private citizen was admonished and questioned was more than 100 years ago.

In 1913, R.C. Miller – a witness before the public accounts committee – refused to answer questions related to allegations about bribes for government contracts. Ultimately MPs in Miller’s case ordered that he should be imprisoned. 

The Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois and NDP will each have two 10-minute rounds, followed by a third round of five-minute questioning periods, which the Greens will be able to take part in.

The motion adjudicating Wednesday’s admonishment notes that following his grilling, the government operations committee will be tasked with reviewing Firth’s testimony and “if necessary, recommend further action.” 


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