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QUESTION PERIOD — Public Services and Procurement

Procurement Process

February 12, 2024

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Government leader, in her testimony before the committee of the other place earlier today regarding the $60 million ArriveCAN app, the Auditor General said:

I have to say that I am deeply concerned by what the audit didn’t find. We didn’t find records to accurately show how much was spent on what, who did the work, or how and why contracting decisions were made — and that paper trail should have existed. Overall, this audit shows a glaring disregard for basic management and contracting practices throughout ArriveCAN’s development and implementation.

So, leader, at a time when 2 million Canadians are using the food bank, this app cost taxpayers $60 million, 750 times more than what was first estimated. Why hasn’t a single minister of the Crown apologized to Canadians today for this waste?

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Because they are arrogant.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

The important thing is that the Auditor General is correct to point out the glaring shortcomings in the processes that were followed, and I’m not going to stand here and take refuge in the fact that this was done early in the days of the pandemic when we were all scrambling here. I’m not doing that here. The examples of lack of proper management practices are glaring, should not have happened and should not be repeated. Steps are being taken to do that, and at the same time, the government is taking strong action to assist Canadians who are still struggling with the costs of food and, indeed, rent. I won’t list all the measures that the government is doing. I see that my time has run out. One can deplore the shortcomings in the ArriveCAN process and continue to support — as this government is doing — Canadians going through difficult times.

Senator Martin [ + ]

Leader, we’re heading into tax season when individual Canadians and small businesses will be asked by your government to provide documents to prove the accuracy of their financial information. Yet, as today’s report shows, the Trudeau government handed out millions to their friends with barely any supporting documentation; that is the irony here, leader. Please, why was this practice acceptable to your government, and why did the Trudeau government repeatedly try to keep it all a secret?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Again, senator, with the greatest of respect, I think a number of the assertions and premises of your questions are not supported either by the report or the facts. The fact remains that the process that was run by the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA, failed to meet proper management standards. CBSA is taking proper steps to correct that, and the inquiry and investigation by the RCMP are designed to find out if any wrongdoing took place and to make sure that those responsible are held accountable if such is the case.

My question is also about the ArriveCAN scandal.

Leader, I will summarize the Auditor General’s findings.

The government’s decision to rely heavily on external resources throughout the development, launch and updating of the application drove up the costs and raises questions about the optimal use of public funds. GC Strategies was involved in the development of the RFP for the contract it was then awarded.

The government bent the rules to favour a supplier that clearly wasn’t qualified to do the job.

The government did not follow good management practices in awarding the contract. Contracts lacked essential information, such as a clear statement of deliverables and required qualifications.

The amounts allocated were exaggerated, and invoices were paid and approved without any details being recorded.

Leader, will the Prime Minister admit that his government is responsible and will he apologize?

Senator Gold [ + ]

As I said, the minister responsible answered questions in the House of Commons. The problems were clearly outlined in the report, and the recommendations have been accepted. Apart from that, I’m not aware of any measures, other than what I’ve already announced, that will be pursued by CBSA. I have no other information to add.

Leader, who will be fired?

Senator Gold [ + ]

An internal investigation and a police investigation are under way. Following those investigations, if people need to be held responsible, measures will be announced.

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