Trudeau slams Tories for investigating WE Charity corruption amid COVID crisis
OTTAWA, Canada, October 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Conservatives this week for trying to renew investigations into the WE Charity corruption scandal that were cut short in August when he chose to prorogue Parliament.
Trudeau said at a press conference Tuesday that the government’s priority is to help Canadians deal with the coronavirus crisis, the National Post reported.
“We are entirely focused on the second wave of COVID-19,” the pro-abortion prime minister emphasized. “We will continue to stay focused on what we need to do to support Canadians facing a very difficult time right now. The Conservatives continue to want to focus on WE Charity, so be it.”
Trudeau’s remarks came a day after Conservative MPs Michael Barrett and Pierre Poilievre announced that they are asking that a special “anti-corruption” committee be formed to investigate the WE affair.
The Bloc and NDP also tabled separate motions to create a special committee to look into the matter, reported Canadian Press.
Before Parliament was prorogued, four Commons committees had started, or were preparing to start, digging into details of the Liberals’ decision to award WE Charity a now-cancelled no-bid contract to manage a CA$902 million national student volunteer grant program.
WE would have received CA$43.5 million to administer the now-defunct program.
The Liberals were already under fire over the sole-source contract when it emerged that Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, and brother, Alexandre Trudeau, had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees and expenses from WE over the last four years, the National Post reported.
As the scandal grew, the ethics commissioner launched an investigation of Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau, whose family also had close ties to the charity founded by Ontario brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger.
Both Trudeau and Morneau apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet discussions on the WE contract, and Trudeau insisted the decision was made by public servants.
On August 17, Morneau resigned his seat, and a month later, WE Charity announced it was closing its Canadian operations.
Meanwhile, the RCMP “continues to examine this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate actions as required,” a spokesman told LifeSiteNews in an email statement.
“However, we generally would not confirm or deny if an investigation is underway unless criminal charges would be laid. It would therefore be inappropriate for us to provide any more comments on this matter at this time.”
Trudeau suggested Tuesday that there are more important issues to deal with, and he dodged a question asking if he opposes a special committee to investigate the WE affair, Huffington Post reported.
“We have an awful lot of work to do, we’re going to continue doing it, but that needs to remain our focus,” Trudeau said. “The opposition can focus on whatever it is they want. We will stay focused on Canadians.”
He contended the Liberals have been open about the circumstances surrounding the WE deal. “I appeared at committee myself months ago, we released thousands of pages of documents, we’ve been open and transparent on these questions,” the prime minister said.
“But the Conservatives continue to want to focus on that. They certainly can. We will stay focused on Canadians while we let committees do their work independently.”
However, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois have all criticized the extensive redactions in the documents the Liberals provided, according to the National Post.
Moreover, the non-partisan House of Commons law clerk told the pre-prorogation committee in August that the government appeared to have redacted more information than was necessary.
Despite this, the documents seemed to suggest the public service was “nudged in WE’s direction by Youth Minister Bardish Chagger,” Huffington Post noted.
The legislative session ended when Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August, and when the House resumed sitting on September 23, committees were reconstituted with new agendas.
As a minority government, the Liberals do not have the majority of votes on committees, and opposition parties can control agendas if they vote together, noted the National Post.
But opposition members of both the ethics and the finance committees attempting to renew investigations of the WE affair have been met with Liberal obstructionism.
Last Friday, the ethics committee met to vote on a motion to have the agency used by WE Charity, Speakers’ Spotlight Bureau, provide details of speaking fees paid since 2008 for Trudeau, his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, as well as Margaret Trudeau and Alexandre Trudeau.
The Liberal members of the committee filibustered for four-and-a-half hours and the meeting ended without a vote when a Bloc Québécois MP joined the Liberals to vote to adjourn. The Liberals employed the same strategy at Thursday’s meeting.
Barrett, the Conservative ethics critic, said Monday that the opposition wants to know what’s in the redacted documents.
“There has to be something pretty significant, pretty explosive in those documents, to shut down Parliament, to stop their release and then, once Parliament resumes, to filibuster committee for days on end to prevent their further release,” he said.
He told Canadian Press that the Conservatives will persevere no matter how long the Liberals filibuster.
It’s not clear when the finance committee will convene again after chair Wayne Easter, a Liberal MP, suspended last Thursday’s meeting to assess if a motion on WE Charity was in order, the National Post reported.
The NDP’s motion proposes the special committee also look into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, “which was allegedly the target of a line-crossing lobby campaign by Rob Silver, who is married to Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford,” political analyst Kady O’Malley wrote in iPolitics.
The NDP also wants the committee to investigate “the procurement of personal protective equipment,” which O’Malley interpreted as an implicit reference “to a COVID-19-related contract awarded to a Quebec ventilator manufacturer owned by a former Liberal MP.”