For weeks now, ethical questions have swirled around the current Liberal government’s decision to bestow a sole-sourced $912 million contract to WE Charity. Canadians now know that Prime Minister Trudeau and his family have attended over 50 WE Charity events (the Prime Minister has spoken at more than eight of these events). Furthermore, WE Charity has paid more than half a million dollars in speaking fees and total expenses to members of the Trudeau family (including his wife, Sophie Trudeau, who was paid $26,726; his brother, Alexandre Trudeau, who was paid $59,576; and his mother, Margaret Trudeau, who was paid $479,944).
The Prime Minister has claimed that only WE could run the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program. However, this is simply not true. WE has zero experience running this kind of program. Moreover, both public servants and other charities have indicated that they could have run this program. Multiple charities including the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, 4H and Chantiers Jeunesse have confirmed that they were never asked by the Liberal government to run the program. Several charities have since indicated that they could have run the program. It has also now been revealed that WE could not offer the program in French. Bilingualism is a requirement for federal programs. Media are reporting WE contracted with a firm in Quebec to offer the program there and that this G.R. firm asked Liberal MPs in Quebec to provide volunteers. Does this remind anyone of the Liberal sponsorship scandal?
The Prime Minister’s account of the events doesn’t pass the smell test. The CSSG was announced on April 22nd. A member of the Prime Minister’s Office spoke with the WE Charity about their proposal on May 5th, which is the same day that WE was allowed to begin charging expenses for administering the program; however, cabinet didn’t approve the proposal until two-and-a-half weeks later on May 22nd. The Prime Minister claims that he pushed back and had questions when he learned about the proposal on May 08, at which time the contract was to go before the full cabinet. However, for two weeks, between May 8 and May 22, WE continued to incur eligible expenses. Therefore, it doesn't make sense that if the Prime Minister pushed back, why WE continued to proceed forward in its plans to administer the program during that period. This raises more troubling questions, including how WE would’ve been so confident they were going to be approved to receive the contract and why the organization was advised they could begin charging expenses before the program was even approved.
Canadians can only conclude the CSSG was never about helping students. It was about the Prime Minister helping his friends and political allies. Since becoming Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s government has given WE millions of taxpayer dollars and acted as a proud promoter of the organization. In 2013, Craig Kielburger donated the maximum to Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign and Marc Kielburger has also donated to the Liberal Party. In 2017, WE created a video to promote Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. The Finance Committee also recently heard from a researcher that WE might share data with the Liberal Party to help with their election efforts.
Prime Minster Trudeau isn’t alone with deep connections to the WE co-founders. Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, has his own close ties to the organization. He has two daughters involved with WE. One works directly for WE and the other has spoken at WE days about her book, which has been endorsed by the organization. Moreover, in 2017, Minister Morneau accepted $41,000 in illegal travel expenses from WE for two trips, which he repaid the same day he testified at the Finance Committee. He should’ve recused himself from the cabinet decision to award the organization almost a $1 billion contract, but he didn’t.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent appearance at the Finance Committee failed to answer the many questions Canadians have about his decision to award a $912 million contract to a political ally. If anything, his testimony only raised more disturbing questions which need to be addressed by him alone. It also confirmed that the entire scandal reeks of political corruption at the highest levels of government, leaving Canadians extremely disappointed; however, not surprised, given he’s already been found guilty of breaking ethics laws twice before. An apology won’t suffice this time. Conservatives will continue to hold him and his government accountable while also continuing to fight for the answers Canadians want and deserve.