PM Trudeau set to testify regarding WE charity controversy

Clay Curtis
August 1, 2020

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied playing any role in picking a charity with ties to his family to manage a major government programme.

Trudeau said he should have recused himself from the discussions, but instead chose to ask for this due diligence to be done - something he says he now regrets.

"These have been self-inflicted wounds throughout the Prime Minister's tenure that many other politicians would have avoided". "Not in a manner that's consistent with Canadian history around these things", mentions Macfarlane.

The at-times tense parliamentary committee meeting was the first featuring a prime minister as witness since 2006, when Stephen Harper testified before a Senate committee on democratic reform.

Asked about this Friday, Trudeau said it was the Kielburgers alone who chose to go ahead and start working and incurring expenses on the grant program. Finance Minister Bill Morneau is also facing an ethics investigation because two of his daughter's have connections to WE. Documents obtained by iPolitics on Monday showed organizations under the civil service branch were contacted by the federal service about their capacity to potentially oversee the program.

Trudeau's argument was that the conflict law allowed him to receive gifts from friends, such as the free vacations his family took on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas, while his government was considering a $15 million grant to one of the Aga Khan's charitable foundations.

The government had previously said the programme would grant up to $900 million Canadian dollars ($670m) to students.

Testifying after Trudeau, Telford said she also had concerns on May 8: "We wanted more information about the efficacy of such a program, and using an external organization for this program, and to be quite honest, we were also concerned about people's perceptions".

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Trudeau's mother, brother and wife have all been paid for their involvement in WE Charity events, while the finance minister's daughter Clare has spoken at WE events, and his daughter Grace is now employed by WE Charity. Morneau repaid $41,000 in related expenses last week.

"It was between going ahead with the charity to deliver the program, or not going ahead with the program at all".

He is being investigated by a federal ethics watchdog for failing to do so.

After cabinet approved the WE deal on May 22, staff in his office recommended additional oversight measures for the dispersal of the approved funding, he said. She said another layer of scrutiny could have been added to dispel any perception of conflict of interest.

Poilievre asked Telford why WE began working on the student grant program and incurring expenses May 5 if it had not yet been approved by cabinet.

However, the public service advised the Canada Service Corps, a youth volunteer service program created by the Liberals in 2018, was unable to scale up fast enough to deliver the emergency grant program in time to help students affected by the struggling economy this year.

The brothers said they wanted to get the program going quickly, and started work knowing they could lose money if cabinet said no.

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