ArriveCan App Scandal: Hearings Shut Down; 1700 Emails Deleted
Parliamentary hearings into the $54 million ArriveCan app and allegations of contracting misconduct were suddenly halted on Wednesday by Liberal, Bloc Québécois, and NDP MPs.
This was made after the discovery of a preliminary report by a federal investigator, described by one Liberal MP as “scary,” which raised concerns that further hearings could jeopardize ongoing investigations by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the RCMP, reports the Globe and Mail.
The MPs all decided to stop questioning Michel Lafleur, the federal investigator, emphasizing a shift in focus for the committee’s future meetings. The House of Commons committee on government operations has been scrutinizing how the ArriveCan app cost taxpayers $80,000 to over $54 million.
“We’re doing a disservice to justice. And I’m being very, very serious about this. Very serious. I’m not a lawyer, okay, but what I read, it’s scary,” said Liberal MP and committee vice-chair Majid Jowhari.
Conservative MPs accused the Liberals of attempting a cover-up, especially with the impending report from Auditor-General Karen Hogan on ArriveCan, set to release on February 12. Stephanie Kusie criticized the Liberals’ motives, while Larry Brock emphasized the importance of uncovering the truth behind these “horrendous allegations against the government of Canada.”
Watch Brock’s grilling of Lafleur below, who can’t answer a single question:
Deflected on 3 Issues in a Row
Watch a high-ranked bureaucrat behave like one of the Liberal Ministers, trying so hard to avoid answering my questions that the Chair had to order him to provide a clear response.
So much for a public servant… pic.twitter.com/EHFiJOK2Ir
— Larry Brock (@LarryBrockMP) February 6, 2024
It was also discovered that 1,700 emails (from 2018 to 2022) related to ArriveCan funding and contracts were allegedly deleted by Minh Doan, the former CBSA’s vice president and chief technology officer during the app’s creation:
Trudeau's top IT bureaucrat refuses to take responsibility for deleting 1700 emails capturing ArriveCan funding and shady contracting details.
But nothing to see here, folks!
The Trudeau government doesn't consider such destruction of evidence as criminal. Wow! pic.twitter.com/AyPq60FdBI
— Larry Brock (@LarryBrockMP) February 7, 2024
The committee’s deliberations became heated over how to handle the confidential preliminary report obtained from the CBSA. The report, prepared by Lafleur, investigates allegations from Montreal software company Botler regarding inflated résumés and close ties between public servants and contractors, some of which were also connected to the ArriveCan project.
Despite the RCMP’s confirmation of investigating Botler’s allegations, they have not indicated an investigation into ArriveCan itself. The findings have led to the suspension of Health Canada assistant deputy minister Cameron MacDonald and Canada Revenue Agency director-general Antonio Utano, as reported by The Globe and Mail.
NDP MP Taylor Bachrach supported the suspension of hearings until the CBSA and RCMP investigations conclude, citing the disturbing nature of the findings in Lafleur’s report. Meanwhile, Chris Spiteri, representing MacDonald and Utano, criticized the report as a collection of “baseless accusations.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the federal government handed out $340,000 in bonuses to executives that worked on the ArriveCan app:
Taxpayers get soaked on $54-million ArriveCAN app, federal executives still get bonuses.
The feds handed out $340,000 in bonuses to executives working on ArriveCAN.
Your money rewarding government failure. pic.twitter.com/rJfFAEfcYn
— Franco Terrazzano (@franco_nomics) February 8, 2024
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said he was shocked at the Liberals’ stance, suggesting a need for further investigation when the opposition claims “there’s nothing to see here.”
The ArriveCan app scandal continues to write itself. Time to refill the popcorn folks because it appears this story is far from over.