Turning the Westin’s Calgary Airport Hotel into a COVID-19 quarantine facility for travellers cost the federal government $26.8 million from 2020 to 2022, according to documents.
That includes $6.8 million spent in 2022 to house and feed 15 people — a cost breakdown of about $453,000 per person for that fiscal year.
The figures were released in response to an order paper question, a mechanism for members of Parliament to ask for information, submitted by Calgary-Nose Hill representative Michelle Rempel-Garner.
The document, posted online Monday by the Conservative MP, broke down the year-over-year spending.
The federal government said it paid $8.9 million to the hotel for lodging and meals in the 2020-21 fiscal year, $11.1 million the following year, and $6.8 million the year after.
A total of 1,490 travellers used the hotel — 119 in 2020, 1,356 in 2021 and 15 in 2022.
That works out to $18,000 per traveller overall, but 2022’s breakdown per person is about $453,000.
Cleaning services, transportation and other supports totalled an additional $4.4 million.
‘Complete waste,’ MP says of the figures
Ottawa concluded its deal with the Westin at the end of October 2022, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). All remaining COVID-related travel restrictions ended on the first of that month.
The government had already dropped the pre-arrival testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers in April and the vaccination requirement for outbound and domestic travellers in June 2022.
“There’s no justification for this expense. It’s complete waste, it’s complete mismanagement,” Rempel-Garner said in a video. She was unavailable for an interview.
“It’s translating this money into what it means for an average person. Again, 4,100 Calgarians could have had their rent paid for for a month based on what they wasted on here.”
Between March of 2020 and September 2022, the government had agreements for 38 quarantine hotel sites in 14 cities across the country. Ottawa spent a total of $388.7 million during those operation dates, according to a statement from PHAC. That breaks down to $158.5 million in fiscal year 2020-21, $153 million in 2021-22, and $77.2 million in 2022-23.
“The Government of Canada has always worked to protect Canadians, adapting our COVID-19 response based on the latest science and evidence,” spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau said in an email.
“These facilities were there as an important measure to stop the spread and save lives.”
One political scientist said this information may cause extra backlash against the federal government among those in Alberta who opposed its pandemic approach.
“This isn’t just a regular government waste story. It’s also a COVID story,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University.
“It fits in with that narrative about while public health restrictions were necessary, they caused undue harm and now they’re costing millions of dollars in wasteful spending.”
Canada has had more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19, and 50,380 people have died from the virus, according to Health Canada.
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