June 10th, 2020
MP Niki Ashton grills minister over Liberal appointed lobbyists to COVID-19 Supply Council
THOMPSON - Yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, NDP MP Niki Ashton (Churchill--Keewatinook Aski) grilled the Minister of Public Services and Procurement over a conflict of interest controversy that resulted in unrequested tents arriving in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba in May. The company that supplied the tents was connected to Minister Anand's COVID-19 Supply Council appointee, Cathy Bennett, who resigned last month after news of her connection to the company was revealed.
"Mathias Colomb Cree Nation has now waited 5 weeks and we're still no closer to an explanation regarding how and why these unrequested tents were sent to the community," said Ashton. “This government has used national security and finger-pointing rather than take responsibility for their lapses in judgment. This is unacceptable.”
When pressed by Ashton, Minister Anand explained that members of the COVID-19 Supply Council had to fill out a form to volunteer any potential conflicts of interest. When asked by Ashton if other members on the council could have conflicts, Minister Anand said that there weren’t. The minister made this claim even though over a third of the members of the Supply Council are lobbyists.
"The case of the tents for Pukatawagan proves that the disclosure form isn't doing its job," said Ashton. We can see clearly that lobbyists from oil and gas and long-term private care homes sit on the COVID-19 Supply Council. Lobbyists should have no business being this close to federal procurement – especially a council that advises the government on procuring crucial pandemic supplies for Canadians."