EDMONTON — As the pandemic sputtered out in 2022, the federal government spent $6.8 million to quarantine 15 travelers at a Calgary hotel — or approximately $450,000 per person.
The hotel quarantine program, which saw hotels designated to host air travelers who did not have a place to safely complete their 14-day quarantine period after traveling to Canada from abroad, came under considerable criticism over the course of the pandemic.
The government, which initially picked up the whole tab, has not released the total cost of the program.
But newly released documents reveal that one quarantine hotel, the Westin Calgary Airport Hotel, was paid $26.8 million over the three years of the pandemic. The Liberals paid $8.9 million in 2020-21, 11.1 million in 2021-22 and $6.8 million in 2022-23.
The cost includes both lodging and meals for quarantined travelers.
The information is contained in a response to an order paper question from Calgary Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner.
She posted the information to her Substack newsletter on Tuesday.
“Why was this contract maintained after the 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.
In the first year of its operation as a quarantine hotel, the Westin hosted 119 travelers. In 2021, 1,356 people stayed there and in 2022 only 15 people. Only one person stayed at the hotel after June 2022, in September.
The hotel’s designation as a quarantine facility ended in October 2022. After that point, the response to Rempel Garner’s question said, the federal government paid a little over $35,000 for “final cleaning, carpentry repairs and painting.”
The federal government also paid for a number of other services involved in the operation of the Westin as a quarantine facility:
* About $1.8 million for security services from the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, a non-profit that employs veterans;
• $41,000 to Aaron Parademical Services, a private medical company based in Alberta;
• $4,600 to Fenton Bus Lines for transport;
• $1.5 million to the Canadian Red Cross for what the documents call “traveller support services”;
• $1.1 million to Winmar, a property restoration company, for cleaning services.
“Government waste is always a problem,” said Rempel Garner. “But waste of this magnitude when deficit spending needs to be reined in due to inflationary pressures shows that Trudeau doesn’t have the capacity or willingness to get things under control.”
Health Canada did not respond by press time to a request for comment from the National Post.
In February 2021, the federal government announced a three-day quarantine for returning travelers. This was to be done at their own expense, and led to significant backlash, as people were saddled with hefty costs upon the return to Canada.
The National Post reported in February 2021 that there were 11 quarantine sites around the country, in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s. (The government at the time refused to answer whether the hotels used for the 14-day stays and the three-day stays were the same.)
It’s unclear what the entire cost of the program might have been. Blacklock’s Reporter, an online Ottawa news outlet, reported that the federal government spent $200 million for quarantine hotels between March 2020 and August 2021.
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