The federal government paid nearly $6.8 million last year for COVID-19 quarantine rooms in a Calgary-area hotel used by only 15 travellers, according to an Inquiry of Ministry document recently tabled in the House of Commons.
The Westin Calgary Airport hotel was designated as a quarantine facility by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) under Section 7 of the Quarantine Act in June 2020.
The hotel housed and provided meals for just 15 quarantined travellers during the nine-month period from January to September 2022, for which it received over $6.79 million from the federal government, or nearly $453,000 per traveller. Ottawa removed all COVD-19 entry restrictions as well as testing, quarantine, and isolation requirements for anyone entering Canada effective Oct. 1, 2022.
The information was included in an Inquiry of Ministry tabled by the Liberal government in the House on Jan. 30, in response to an order paper question submitted in November 2022 by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner.
In total, 1,490 travellers were quarantined at the hotel between June 22, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2022. This was part of Ottawa’s pandemic travel restrictions that required travellers coming to Canada from abroad to stay at designated hotels if they did not have a suitable place of quarantine or isolation.
Among those 1,490 travellers, 99 percent, or 1,475, stayed at the hotel in 2020 and 2021.
The inquiry document provided a year-by-year breakdown of travellers quarantined at the hotel throughout the duration of federal COVID border measures, from June 2020 to September 2022.
Ottawa paid the hotel over $8.9 million for housing 119 quarantined travellers in 2020, and over $11.1 million for housing 1,356 quarantined travellers in 2021.
The federal government also paid additional costs for other services provided by third parties at the Westin Calgary Airport hotel.
Between June 2020 and September 2022, Ottawa paid over $1.75 million to the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires for security services, around $1.48 million to the Canadian Red Cross for traveller-support services, and over $1.13 million to Winmar for cleaning services, along with other smaller costs to companies for transportation services.
The inquiry notes that since there was “a manual collection of information” involved in gathering the data, “a small degree of human error” is possible.
Furthermore, after the hotel’s designation as a quarantine facility was cancelled, a cleaning service provider performed final cleaning, carpentry repairs, and painting for $35,265 in October 2022. PHAC agreed to cover “basic remediation costs not related to normal wear and tear,” to address any damages caused by implementation of the infection prevention and control measures for the quarantined travellers.
Rempel Garner, who requested the information, said the response showing the cost “was legitimately flabbergasting.”
She wrote in a Jan. 30 article that the inquiry also shows Ottawa only cancelled the hotel’s quarantine facility designation effective Oct. 30, 2022, “long after travel restrictions had been eased,” when this could have been done earlier with 30 days’ notice.
“Why was this contract maintained after travel restrictions had been lifted? How did no one catch that this was happening? And this is just one quarantine hotel facility. How many more stories like this are there across the country?” Rempel Garner wrote.
The Epoch Times previously reported that PHAC, under emergency powers, awarded $52 million in sole-source contracts to private security companies to help enforce its COVID-19 quarantine orders.
A PHAC spokesperson said the private contractors made 590,000 visits to verify quarantine compliance between Jan. 29, 2021, and Sept. 15, 2022.
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.