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MPs summon owners of firm behind ArriveCan to testify or face arrest

The owners of GC Strategies are being summoned again to appear before the government operations committee amid the ArriveCan controversy.

Wednesday’s passage of a Conservative motion came a day later than the party originally hoped for after debate around amendments stretched until the end of the allotted meeting time.

Under the passed motion, GC Strategies owners Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony are to testify on dates determined by the chair of the committee.

However, if they do not respond to the summons and appear, the motion called for the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Commons to take them into custody and compel their appearance.

That typically does not happen automatically, and only if the House of Commons backs the committee’s request to have such a warrant issued for the individuals in question.

In their motion, Conservatives note that both owners have previously been summoned by the committee on two separate occasions in November and then earlier this month. Firth and Anthony previously appeared before the committee on Oct. 20, 2022.

The latest summons comes after the ArriveCan app came under renewed scrutiny by MPs after auditor general Karen Hogan found that nearly $60 million was spent on the app, but in her report released last week could not come to a conclusive dollar figure due to poor record-keeping.

“Common-sense Conservatives are calling GC Strategies and its employees to testify under oath at a parliamentary committee,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said in comments preceding the vote on Wedneday. “They’re refusing and so we’ve put forward a motion to have them arrested and physically dragged into the room to explain where our quarter-billion dollars went. Where’s the funds?”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Liberal MP Irek Kuscmiercyzk was accused by Conservative MP Larry Brock and House Leader Andrew Scheer of “running out the clock” as he offered a 25-minute reply to a sub-amendment on the Conservative motion.

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Kusmiercyzk repeated similar remarks to Tuesday’s that they had not reached the time to press the “nuclear button” option to summon the two executives and seek to have the Sergeant-at-Arms take them into custody if they do not appear.

Last week the RCMP said they are examining the auditor general’s ArriveCan report. 

Summons from committees are issued by baliffs once adopted, but committees themselves don’t have the power to enforce those orders once issued by the baliff — that’s where referral of the matter to the House of Commons comes in.

“Although they can send for certain persons, standing committees do not have the power to punish a failure to comply with their orders in this regard. Only the House of Commons has the disciplinary powers needed to deal with this type of offence,” according to parliamentary rules.

“If a witness refuses to appear, or does not appear, as ordered, the committee’s recourse is to report the matter to the House. Once seized with the matter, the House takes the measures that it considers appropriate.”

Scheer said Tuesday that the Conservatives want the House to consider issuing a warrant for them to appear.

“In the past, there has been cooperation between the House of Commons and law enforcement agencies to ensure that Parliament’s orders are respected,” Scheer said.

The committee is expected to meet once again on Thursday about ArriveCan, with officials from Health Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency expected to appear.

with files from Global News’ David Baxter

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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