Refugee health care fight cost feds $1.4 million in legal fees

The federal government is refusing to reveal the full price tag for its ongoing legal battle over the interim refugee health program. But so far, the total exceeds $1.4 million.

CItizenship and immigration department unable to provide full price tag when asked to disclose

In a written response tabled in the House on Monday, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said his department hasn't kept track of costs related to the ongoing legal battle over the refugee health program. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The federal government is refusing to reveal the full price tag for its ongoing legal battle over the interim refugee health program.

But so far, the tally exceeds $1.4 million.

Last December, Toronto New Democrat MP Andrew Cash filed a written request seeking the total amount spent on legal fees and related costs to date.

He also requested the estimated tab for the appeal of last year's decision by the Federal Court, which ruled that the decision to cancel the program was unconstitutional.

In a response tabled on Monday, Justice Minister Peter MacKay stated that the total legal cost is "approximately" $1,431,148.83

That, however, doesn't include the money spent by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which also was asked to reply to the question.

In his response, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander acknowledged that his department would also have "incurred costs" as a result of the litigation, including responding to information requests from opposing counsel, preparing affidavits and related activities.

"However, it is not possible to define these costs with any reasonable degree of accuracy," his reply continues.

"Departmental financial systems do not track such activity, nor do they record time expended by litigation file."

On Wednesday, Cash — the NDP MP who submitted the question — called on the government to drop its appeal and restore all benefits immediately.

"Instead of paying lawyers to keep health care away from refugees, the Conservatives should end this offensive charade, abide by the federal court’s ruling and fully restore the program," he said in an email to CBC News.

A spokesman for the immigration minister said the Federal Court ruling was "flawed" and that restoring benefits would cost the government $4 million to implement.

"Our government is defending the interests of Canadian taxpayers as well as the integrity of our refugee determination system," Kevin Ménard said in an email to CBC News.

Mobile users: Read the full response here.

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