GC Strategies partner Kristian Firth will be admonished before the House of Commons, a rare measure used just five times since the early 1900s and only once for a private citizen in the last century.

The House of Commons has taken the extraordinary step of finding Firth, a contractor for the controversial ArriveCan app, in contempt of Parliament. This rare move mandates Firth’s appearance at the bar of the House for a public censure scheduled for Apr. 17.

The bar in the House of Commons, a brass rod symbolizing the divide between MPs and non-members, is where individuals, in rare instances, can be publicly admonished. 

Should an individual be found in contempt of Parliament, they are subject to being called for a public reprimand delivered by the speaker on behalf of the House of Commons.

Additionally, the motion requires that Firth be subjected to questions by members of Parliament.

True North previously reported that the Auditor General’s report revealed that Canadian taxpayers paid an estimated $59.5 million for the ArriveCan application. The costs were outsourced to 32 different contractors. GC Strategies had the biggest price tag of the contractors at $19.1 million.

Firth appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in March.

“During this witness testimony, the committee was unable to ascertain certain facts from Mr. Firth, who repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing a potential investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy as a justification for his refusal to respond,” said the committee’s report.

“Additionally, some of the witness testimony provided by Mr. Firth was called into question as being misleading or false.”

Firth told the committee that the app only cost approximately $11 million to build. He added that the AG report valuation analyzed billing up until May 2023. He said that the application build finished in July 2022, which could have included billing not towards ArriveCan.

“We submitted 1,500 approved invoices per month for the last three years to get to whichever amount you want to listen to: $19.1 million or $11 million,” he said.

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer presented a motion to “find Firth in contempt for his refusal to answer certain questions and for prevaricating in his answers to other questions, and, accordingly, order him to attend at the Bar of this house, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.”

The motion demanded that Firth be admonished and respond to questions from the committee’s report and any supplementary questions. The motion passed unanimously.

The last instance of a non-MP being summoned to the bar of the House dates back to 2021, when Iain Stewart, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, refused to hand over documents while censured before the House of Commons.

After the Conservatives sought access to the documents for three years, they were finally released in February.

Before Stewart, the last non-MP summoned to the House of Commons was R.C. Miller in 1913, a witness before the public accounts committee who refused to answer questions. He was subsequently summoned to appear before the Bar and answer questions. The House proceeded to adopt a motion that he was in contempt of the House and should be imprisoned. He was imprisoned for approximately four months, until the end of the session.

GC Strategies deactivated its website in late February, and both of its partners, Kristian Firth and Darren Anthony, seemingly disabled their email addresses.