Uncovering government spending

Following the money

Any regular reader of my column will know that spending has significantly increased under the Trudeau government. Keeping track of all that spending, to ensure value for money, has been a challenge.

One example occurred in the public accounts, which is an annual report that compiles the spending of every government department, agency or crown corporation. In that report, there was a payment listed by the Public Health Agency of Canada as an "unfulfilled contract by a vendor," resulting in a $150 million loss.

Surprisingly, this payment was made to an unnamed company and was never fulfilled. The department refused to provide any details about the payment to the media, citing a confidentiality agreement. Fortunately, many details came to light at the Standing Committee on Health. The company was revealed as Medicago, and the contract was for the purchase of vaccines.

If it hadn't been raised there, Canadians would still be in the dark. When asked why that amount was deemed uncollectible, a representative from the agency explained, that in the termination by mutual consent, the government had no contractual right to request a return of the payment.

Another example of scrutiny of government spending practices by MPs is the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology (INDU). That committee is investigating Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a federal agency tasked by the government to distribute tax dollars to support "novel ideas that have the power to solve our most pressing environmental problems.”

In 2020, the government announced $750 million in funding for that agency. Recently, it came under investigation by the INDU committee due to questionable spending practices related to some of that money.

This week in Ottawa, a non-partisan public servant appeared as a whistleblower at the INDU committee. The whistleblower's identity has been protected, but they worked at the agency from 2020 to 2022. Their role involved conducting financial due diligence and ensuring compliance with various projects.

According to the National Post, this whistleblower alleged $150 million of taxpayer money was granted improperly, including to companies directly connected to SDTC's own board members. This revelation shocked many.

Furthermore, the whistleblower claimed the Office of the Minister of Industry was also involved in handling some of the political consequences that arose from a report by a third-party accounting firm on this dubious expenditure.

The issue is that up to $150 million may have been directed by members of the Sustainable Development Technology Canada board to companies they are alleged to have direct or indirect ties with, creating a potential conflict of interest.

That is clearly a very serious situation, or at least it should be taken seriously, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, during Question Period on Dec. 12, when the Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about it, the prime minister declined to give a candid or direct answer.

One does not necessarily expect a large amount of specific information during Question Period, but at the very least, it is not unreasonable to expect the prime minister to acknowledge his government takes the issue seriously and to make a commitment to Canadians to be accountable and provide information on what occurred.

Instead of that, Trudeau responded with a political attack against the Poilievre.

My question this week is not specifically about the Prime Minister, but rather about elected officials in general:

Are you concerned about the level of accountability you receive from those you elect to public office? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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