Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are facing ethics investigations for failing to recuse themselves from a decision to award WE Charity Foundation a nearly $1B sole-sourced contract to administer a now-cancelled student volunteer program.
Over the past few weeks it has been widely reported that WE has very close ties to the Trudeau family, as well as to many members of the Liberal cabinet and high-ranking staff. Among other connections, the Prime Minister's wife is a "WE Ambassador", while his brother and mother have both spoken at WE events.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau's daughter is currently employed by the charity, while a book written by another one of his daughters was promoted by WE. In addition to this, WE Charity provided a $41,000 vacation to the Finance Minister which he only paid back this week – long after he had failed to recuse himself.
Given the awarding of the administration of the Canadian Summer Student Grant Program to WE, such close ties immediately raised ethical questions.
WE initially refused to confirm if Trudeau’s family members had been paid for speaking, but media reports quickly uncovered nearly $300,000 in payments to his mother and brother for speaking engagements – this despite WE’s standard policy of not paying their speakers.
Under questioning by the Finance Committee, Ministers and public officials revealed that WE Charity was set to receive up to $43 Million in administrative fees to run the grant. Officials also stated that WE approached the government with a similar proposal early this spring before being given this contract without a bidding process.
Media reports have also shown that this may not be the only concerning instance. A leaked memo from WE co-founder Marc Kielburger stated that Prime Minister Trudeau asked WE to host a Canada Day event in 2017 at which Trudeau’s mother was a guest speaker. WE has refused to say if Mrs. Trudeau was paid for this event.
Most recently, we have learned that the contract was not given to WE Charity itself, as the Prime Minister said, but rather the WE Charity Foundation, the real-estate arm of WE Charity, which has no charitable record to speak of. Its only significance is that it holds tens of millions in real estate.
As pointed out in both the Ethics and Access to Information Committee and Finance Committee hearings on the scandal, this is now the third time Trudeau is being investigated for breaching our ethics law since he was elected Prime Minister, and the second time Morneau is under investigation. Trudeau has already been found guilty of accepting a paid vacation on a luxury island, and for his involvement in the SNC-Lavalin Corruption Scandal. As they say in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.
Trudeau’s only excuse for this blatant ethics violation is that he didn't know how much his mother was being paid by the charity. He doesn't seem to realize that the amount is not the important point. Whether she was being paid $1 or $1M, Trudeau should not have been involved in the decision. We have ethics laws in Canada to ensure that no one can profit either themselves or their relatives from their role as elected officials, yet Trudeau continues to act as though those rules do not apply to him.
While Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland apologized for Trudeau, saying, "Everyone in the Cabinet bears responsibility for this situation”, it is time for him to take responsibility for his actions.
It is not the fault of Cabinet that he did not recuse himself from the vote. It is the fault of the Prime Minister and it is time for accountability
In 2015 Trudeau promised an honest, transparent government. Yet time and again, even when he gets caught, he and his caucus stonewall Canadians from getting to the truth.
Instead of doubling down and closing ranks, I believe it’s time for every single Liberal Member of Parliament to look themselves in the mirror and decide if they are comfortable with Justin Trudeau continuing as the leader of their party. Canadians have had enough. They have had enough of corruption, cronyism, and lack of good judgement. It is time for a change.
While Conservatives will be holding the government to account, only time will tell if the NDP and Bloc Quebecois will help us fully utilize the powers of a united Opposition. The question now is, have they had enough of this corruption, or will they continue to prop up the Liberal government?
Be assured that I, along with my Conservative colleagues in the House, will continue to push for transparency from an opaque government, and accountability from a Prime Minister who constantly blames others.
I hope this has been of interest to you.