Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Federal opposition parties are promising to keep fighting to get to the bottom of the WE controversy despite what they describe as Liberal threats and stonewalling. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Federal opposition parties are promising to keep fighting to get to the bottom of the WE controversy despite what they describe as Liberal threats and stonewalling. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Opposition parties gear up for next round of fight with Liberals over WE controversy

Among the issues the Tories want studied are Ottawa’s efforts to buy personal protective equipment

The threat of a possible snap election will be hovering over Parliament Hill this week as opposition parties resume their fight with the Liberal government over the WE controversy and preparations for the second wave of COVID-19.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner on Sunday called for a House of Commons committee to investigate what she suggested was Ottawa’s lack of readiness in dealing with the recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

The request was in relation to a motion that she made to the Commons health committee earlier this month asking for a wide-ranging study on the issue, which is expected to be debated by committee members on Monday.

“Today, as businesses are closed and in another series of COVID-related economic shutdowns, we are looking for answers as to why the federal government left Canadians unprepared to deal with this second wave,” Rempel Garner told a news conference.

“That’s why this study is so important. Canadians deserve an explanation about why the federal government only has an economic shutdown to rely upon after months, and billions of dollars being spent.”

Among the issues the Tories want studied are Ottawa’s efforts to buy personal protective equipment, why rapid COVID-19 tests have not been approved as well as the decision to shutter Canada’s pandemic early-warning system last year.

Yet the real drama will surround ongoing opposition efforts to dig into the government’s decision in the spring to have WE Charity run a multimillion-dollar federal program for student volunteers during the pandemic.

The Conservatives are scheduled to have what is known as an opposition day on Tuesday, and have indicated they plan to raise one of three issues in the House of Commons that will be put to a vote.

Two relate to China and are non-binding on the government. One calls for Ottawa to impose sanctions on Chinese officials for recent crackdowns on protesters in Hong Kong, and the other to ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G network.

But the third, if supported by the three main opposition parties, would roll several committee investigations into the WE deal — and the charity’s payments to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family — into one special committee.

READ MORE: Conservatives want an anti-corruption committee to probe WE Charity controversy

Rempel Garner was noncommittal on Sunday when asked if the Tories planned to push for what they are describing as an “anticorruption committee,” saying the party still has another day to decide.

“But one way or the other, we are going to get answers on this issue,” she added. “These documents should come to light.”

The comments follow Liberal filibusters on the Commons’ ethics and finance committees last week as opposition members tried to resurrect two WE investigations suspended 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.

The ethics committee was similarly stalled over a Conservative motion demanding 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 Liberals have since proposed their own special committee that would examine billions of dollars in federal spending related to COVID-19, which is closer to what the federal NDP have wanted.

At the same time, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez on Friday suggested that if the Conservatives push ahead with their motion on Tuesday to create a new committee, the Liberals could make the matter a confidence vote.

That would mean a possible snap election if the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois all supported the Tories’ move to create an anticorruption committee, which would also look at what the Tories describe as other “scandals or potential scandals.”

The other potential 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.

The Bloc did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus dismissed Rodriguez’s threat, saying it would be “one of the most irresponsible things anybody’s ever done in the history of Canada” to plunge the country into an election now.

“Given the fact that our COVID-19 numbers are going off the charts right now, that the government would even threaten to plunge us into the chaos of an election … in order to avoid answering questions on the Trudeau relationship with WE, that would be so staggeringly irresponsible, I can’t think that he could be serious.”

And while Angus indicated an openness to the Liberal proposal for a COVID-19 committee, he suggested opposition parties were getting tired and frustrated at what he described as the government’s stonewalling over the WE controversy.

“The Liberals have said publicly that they’re ready to work on establishing the committee,” he said. “Everybody’s waiting to see if the Liberals are serious. If they’re not serious, it’s just going to make the opposition party’s even more frustrated.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirusLiberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

(Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: Town of Smithers lifts alert for high levels of chlorine in water

Residents are advised town water is now safe to use

Garry Merkel has been recognized for his work in culturally appropriate Indigenous education with an honourary doctorate from the University of British Columbia.
Tahltan educator recognized with honorary doctorate from UBC

Garry Merkel has dedicated his life to improving Indigenous educational outcomes

Gareth Manderson, general manager BC Works, and Bandstra’s Zach Runions and Steve Collins. Photo supplied
Smithers family-owned business institution sold to publicly-traded company

Bandstra Transportation and Babine Trucking acquired by Mullen Group

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada buys 65M Pfizer booster shots for protection against COVID-19 variants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the deal with Pfizer includes options to add 30 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, and an option for 60 million doses in 2024

A plan flew over the Lower Mainland with a sign expressing some Canucks fans’ discontent with the team’s general manager. (Niqhil Velji - Twitter Screenshot)
#FireBenning movement gets off the ground in Metro Vancouver

Canucks fans raise enough money to fly banner over Metro Vancouver asking for team GM to be canned

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The freed osprey keeps a wary eye on its rescuers after being deposited on its nest. (Photo credit: Greg Hiltz)
Hydro crew in Ashcroft gets osprey rescue call-out they won’t soon forget

Bird was tangled in baling wire hanging from a hydro pole, necessitating a tricky rescue

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
UPDATED: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Most Read