Problems for Trudeau became impoverished after the contract, worth C $ 43.5 million, was signed with WE Charity to manage a C $ 544 million student grant program that is part of Canada’s pandemic response. Trudeau has already been convicted of violating conflict of interest laws since becoming a minister in 2015 twice before and the latest row has been re-probed by the ethics commissioner – an investigation involving his finance minister – and calling on rivals for his resignation.
WE work on international development projects and educational programs, mostly in the United States and Canada, that teach young people about civic engagement. But the deal, announced in late June, was canceled just days after the turmoil over charity ties to the Trudeau family, including revelations that his mother and brother were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking, travel and hospitality fees from the organization over the last half decade.
Trudeau himself spoke at major WE events and his wife was one of the group’s ambassadors, which is an unpaid role except for expenses.
Raising questions Thursday, Trudeau reiterated that after the light he must have removed himself from the Cabinet’s decision-making process around the contract once he discovered that WE was involved. He also stressed that the pandemic partners accelerated the overall pace of policy discussions and that it did not keep the recommendation to go with the WE, which came from the public service.
Trudeau said he was informed by government officials that due to the short time frame this was a binary option: go with the WE or the program would not go ahead at all.
At another point in the hearing, Trudeau suggested that because of those past ethical controversies he approached the WE contract with more caution.
But Trudeau̵7;s critics have not changed from his introspection. New Democratic MP Charlie Angus said he did not buy the Prime Minister’s explanation, calling it an “obvious conflict of interest” because of his connection to WE co-founders Marc and Craig Kielburger.
“There were a lot of red flags with this proposal. The second one was announced,” Angus told Trudeau. “You give the impression … that you don’t believe the laws that define what politicians can do. and they can’t do it for you. “
Angus said Trudeau’s actions leading to the cancellation of the contract hurt young people who were hoping to be compensated for volunteer opportunities this summer.
Trudeau took a risk with his appearance before a parliamentary committee, where opponents could witness in sometimes chaotic environments known for constant interruptions, raised voices and exchanges of evidence.
The prime minister was repeatedly pressured on how much we paid WE for his wife’s recent trip to an event in London, whether he had read the Conflict of Interest Act and questioned who would be fired for the decision. to be awarded the WE contract.
WE’s yanked contract also swamped Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Trudeau’s economic quarterback entrusted with Covid-19’s federal response. Morneau revealed to the same committee last week that he failed to pay more than C $ 41,000 worth of travel expenses from trips he, his wife and one of their children took with WE in 2017. Morneau, who has a daughter who works for WE, insisted he only realized that he had not paid the travel expenses.
Morneau, who is also under investigation by the ethics commissioner, has also publicly apologized for not refusing himself from the decision to award the contract to WE.
Both Trudeau and Morneau have faced demands from political rivals to resign over the issue and polls suggest the controversy has already reduced Liberal support and Trudeau’s approval ratings, which have risen since the start of the -pandemic.
Since last autumn’s elections, there has been little apparent appetite among opposition parties to defeat the Trudeau minority Liberal government and trigger another election. But the Conservatives should elect a new leader in late August and may be tempted to defeat the government.
The Prime Minister has shown he can withstand scandals, including public release during last year’s election campaign with images of his brown dress 20 years ago.
His first breach of the law of ethics was on vacation at all costs in 2016 which he and his family took to the private Caribbean island of Aga Khan. Then, last year, the ethics watchdog found that Trudeau violated the conflict of interest law after he and his staff repeatedly urged his attorney general to issue a settlement agreement. the allegation with the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, which was facing corruption charges.
Trudeau also weathered a blow back from a 2018 trip to India when he had to drop a dinner invitation he had issued to a Sikh extremist who had been accused of trying to kill an Indian politician.
Despite the controversy, Trudeau was re-elected last year – but voters reduced him and his Liberals to minority status only in Parliament. The weakened mandate has forced them to work with opposition parties to pass legislation and keep the government afloat.
The WE contract also put more scrutiny on the financial activities of the major international charity itself. Earlier this week, the Kielburgers asked questions in front of the finance committee.
The WE has had considerable international reach. Her website, which includes photos of Kielburgers posing with international celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, says the charity has worked with some of the world’s best-known social thinkers and activists. . “