House of Commons votes to investigate federal spending on ArriveCan App

BQ and NDP support Conservative motion asking Auditor-General to investigate spending

November 2, 2022, 8:09 pm


The House of Commons has votes to ask Auditor-General Karen Hogan to investigate federal spending on the ArriveCan app.

The Bloc Québécois and the NDP supported the Conservative motion, while Liberal and Green Party MPs voted against the motion. The motion passed with a vote of 174 to 149.

The motion was put forward by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

The motion says “the cost of government is driving up the cost of living” and calls on the government to “eliminate wasteful spending,” before recommending that the House call on the Auditor-General to conduct a performance audit of all aspects of the ArriveCan app, including payments, contracts and subcontracts.

The app was initially created as a way for travellers to upload mandatory health information for COVID-19 screening but has since been expanded to allow users to answer customs and immigration questions. As of Sept. 30, it is no longer mandatory but remains a voluntary option.

The Globe and Mail had investigated and found that the cost to build and maintain the app will reach $54-million.

Since the Globe published that article, the government has faced questions on the matter in the House and the government operations committee has launched hearings into the app.

“We will find out the truth. The government will have to answer to Canadians,” Poilievre said Tuesday in the House. “At a time when Canadians are unable to pay their bills, it is an outrage to force them to pay $54-million for such a useless waste of money.”

Opposition MPs raised a lot of questions in the house about the role of GCstrategies, the two-person company that has collected millions in commissions by winning federal IT contracts and then hiring subcontractors to do the work. GCstrategies received the most federal outsourcing work to build and maintain the ArriveCan app, about $9-million worth. The two person company, that does none of the work itself, but bids on federal contacts and hires other companies to do the work, received a total of $46-million for a variety of federal contracts over the past six years.

NDP MP Taylor Bachrach said the biggest concern is the lack of transparency when it comes to how the app’s cost grew from an initial $80,000 to $54-million.

“We also know the government paid an IT staffing firm here in Ottawa nine million of those dollars. This is a firm that has no office, has only a handful of staff and did not actually do the work, but rather assembled a team of contractors and took a 15 per cent to 30 per cent commission. They were making millions of dollars off this,” he said.