OTTAWA—The Opposition Conservatives called on the federal ethics watchdog to widen his investigation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the eve of his committee appearance on the aborted deal with WE Charity to run a student-volunteer program.
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau for possible violation of the Conflict of Interest Act for not recusing themselves during cabinet discussions about the WE deal.
Both have apologized for not doing so.
For Trudeau, the issues stem from speaking fees and related expenses the WE organization paid to his mother, brother, and wife, amounting to over $500,000 based on testimony the charitys co-founders provided to the House of Commons finance committee Tuesday.
During an afternoon press conference Wednesday, Conservatives said the new numbers related to the travel expenses required an additional investigation by Dion to see if the payments violate conflict-of-interest rules.
Regulations prohibit ministers or their family from accepting free travel, lest it be seen as buying influence in government policy.
Trudeau is set to testify Thursday at the Commons finance committee about the events that led to his cabinet asking WE Charity to oversee a program that provides grants to students and graduates for volunteering if they couldnt find work this summer due to the pandemic-related economic slowdown.
The partisan barbs and rhetoric on display Wednesday sets the stage for a potentially contentious and rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee.
“We want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said in Ottawa.
He warned the Opposition would look to pry more testimony out of Trudeau in the fall if he didnt provide detailed answers.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he wanted Trudeau to explain why the Liberals opted to have the charity run a service program when there were other, potentially easier, avenues to help financially strapped students.
He cited increasing student grants or putting more money into the Canada Summer Jobs program as examples.
“This was never about helping students,” Singh said Wednesday in Burnaby, B.C.
“This was about helping close friends of the Liberal government and of Prime Minister Trudeau and that is deeply troubling.”
The Liberals budgeted $912 million for the student-volunteer program, but only agreed to pay a maximum of $543 million to WE. That included about $43.5 million in administration fees to the group, with the remainder to be spent on the grants.
The program is to pay eligible students and graduates $1,000 for every 100 hours of volunteering, up to a maximum of $5,000. The government has yet to roll it out nearly a month after WE backed out over the controversy.
On Tuesday, WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger told the finance committee they expected the program to cost up to $300 million because the majority would earn between $1,000 and $3,000, with few hitting the maximum amount.
They also spoke about the expenses paid to Trudeaus familyRead More – Source