What has developed into an embarrassment for the Trudeau government seems to be getting worse. Labelled by opposition forces as a scandal, it began with a sole-source contract to the WE Charity to administer a $912 million programme to aid youth volunteers over the summer.
Criticism has been levelled against the government on several fronts including that the programme created paying jobs at below minimum wage levels, but moreso that Trudeau gave the contract to a group that had paid his mother and brother substantial amounts to appear at speaking events, while his wife is a ‘WE Ambassdor’ and hosts podcasts for the organisation. Other critics say the ‘WE Charity” was not suited to administer such a programme and other national charities were better choices.
The fact that WE withdrew from the deal almost as soon as controversy broke out, has not stopped the criticism.
The Federal Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, has launched an investigation into the Prime Minister’s actions under the Conflict of Interest Act, and now a second one into that of the finance minister Bill Morneau who has a daughter on contract with the organisation.
The opposition Conservative Party has also indicated it would like a criminal investigation into the matter, and also into some seven other grants worth more than $5 million that the Liberal government has given to WE since 2017.
The National Post also says the federal government gave over $1million to WE to host a WE Day event on Parliament Hill on July 2, 2017. Trudeau’s mother was a speaker at the event, but PostMedia reports the WE has refused to confirm or deny she was paid for that event.
Yesterday a House of Commons Finance Committee began its own hearings into the affair. It heard from Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger that the Liberal government was prepared to more than double the payment to WE to administer the programme. The government had previously indicated a payment of up to $19.5 million, but Chagger revealed that could have gone up to $43.53 million for administration of the Canada Student Service Grant. The amount depended on the number of students placed.
The committee has asked the Prime Minister to testify, but he remains noncommittal. Both Trudeau and Morneau have apologised and admitted they should have recused themselves from the decision to grant the contract to the WE Charity.
The ethics commissioner has said his investigations will take about seven months.
- TorStar: K Leavitt: Jul 16/20: Ottawa was prepared to pay $43.5M to WE Charity, Chagger tells committee
- Globe and Mail: Curry/Walsh: July 16/20: WE pitched detailed youth plan on day Trudeau announced $912-million student grant program
- CBC: P Zimonjic: Jul 18/20: MP’s begin probe into government’s choice of WE Charity for student grant contract
- Facebook (Pierre Polievre- Opposition finance critic) FInance Committee hearing (1hr 24)
- Canadian Press(via Global News): J Press: July 16/20: Minister Chagger says she wasn’t directed by Trudeau’s office on WE Charity contract
- CTV:S Turnbull: Jul 16/20: Morneau now under ethics investigation over WE Charity dealings