A waste of your money

This week the House of Commons is back in session for the first time in 2023.

As it would happen, this week was also the same week several opposition MPs received written answers to order paper questions on Parliament Hill.

What are order paper questions? 

Unlike the short rapid-fire format of Question Period, which often results in either a non-answer or an answer to a different question, an order paper question is a written question from a Member of Parliament that, after 48 hours notice, will be posted on the “Order Paper” with the intent that the responsible Minister will provide a substantive answer within 45 House Sitting days.

However, that is not always the case.

Each Member of Parliament is allowed a maximum of 4 questions on the order paper at any time. This week I received a reply to one of my order paper questions asking the federal government how many cancelled contracts were between January 1st, 2019 and December 12th, 2022 and what, if any, cancellation fees taxpayers must bear.

The answer I received back was an incomplete accounting as some departments still need to give a number; however, from those that did, there are over half a million dollars in penalties paid out for over 300 cancelled contracts.

Some cancelled contracts were up to $11.7 million, which seemed low compared to other expenses now coming to light.

My Conservative colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, Michelle Rempel-Garner, had a different question.

During the pandemic, the Trudeau Liberal Government created “quarantine hotels” where travellers entering Canada via air between February 21st, 2021, and August 9th, 2021, were forced to stay in to meet the then-in-place requirement for a mandatory three-night stay as they awaited their Day 1 COVID test results.

MP Rempel Garner discovered that between the two hotels contracted for this service at the Calgary airport in fiscal 2022 (which was after the Federal government had lifted travel restrictions), they still paid out $6,790,717.46 to the operators of these two hotels.

MP Rempel Garner further learned that during this same time frame, only 15 people stayed at these hotels under this program. That amounts to over $452,000 per person!

Only more shocking is the admission that the government could have cancelled these contracts by giving their 30-day notice, but they only bothered to do so sometime late in the fall of 2022.

So what we have learned from these two order paper questions is that it is far more economical for the Government of Canada to cancel contracts where they are not needed.

At the same time, from my own order paper experience, this particular federal government does not cancel contracts often, meaning taxpayers will continue to pay more for services that are no longer needed.

From my perspective, what is most alarming is that when Conservatives question the Ministers responsible for spending $6,790,717.46 to provide a quarantine hotel for just 15 people, they offer no resignation or apology, only a shrug.

My question to you this week:

There was a time when there was strong public opposition to careless spending by any level of government, regardless of political stripe.

Are those days over, or are the taxpayers of Canada owed an apology from Prime Minister Trudeau over this poorly managed program?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.