OTTAWA – The federal ethics watchdog may have let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau get away with it, but that won’t stop opposition parties from releasing a scathing report on the WE Charity affair.
The House of Commons Ethics Committee, which has spent months investigating the controversy, will release its report today.
Committee members from all three major opposition parties approved the majority report, which is expected to focus on the Trudeau family’s ties to WE Charity and the preferential access to government officials granted to WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger.
It should include almost 20 recommendations.
Liberal committee members are to publish their own dissenting report.
The WE case has plagued Trudeau’s minority Liberal government since last summer, when it decided to give the charity up to $ 43.5 million to administer a scholarship program for student volunteers.
Although the contract specified that WE was not to make any profit from the arrangement, the decision sparked immediate controversy due to the charity’s close ties to Trudeau and his wife, as well as his mother and brother. , who had both been paid to appear. at certain WE events over the years.
Then Finance Minister Bill Morneau, whose daughter worked for the charity and donated generously to it, was also criticized.
Trudeau and Morneau apologized at the time for not recusing themselves from the decision. WE Charity quickly withdrew from the program, which was eventually canceled.
Last month, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion ruled that Trudeau did not violate the Conflict of Interest Act.
But in a separate report, he also ruled that Morneau broke the rules and gave WE Charity preferential treatment due to his personal friendship with the Kielburgers.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said Dion’s findings left plenty of room for the ethics committee to comment.
He said the committee’s majority report would reflect that none of the “normal checks and balances and normal due diligence processes” were in place for the selection of WE Charity to manage the grant program.
“I think you’ll see in the report that you can’t just say, ‘Well, it was the pandemic and people had to make decisions quickly,'” Angus said in an interview.
“It was about the power the Kielburgers had, in terms of dealing with key people in the Trudeau government at the time, and Canadians were the losers.”
In his own report, Dion concluded that there was no friendship between Trudeau and the Kielburgers, that Trudeau did not give them preferential treatment, and that neither he nor his relatives could benefit, even indirectly, from the decision to entrust WE with the administration of the program.
Dion also confirmed Trudeau’s version of events: that WE’s choice to run the program was recommended by bureaucrats, that the Prime Minister at first hesitated at the idea and demanded that they look for alternatives, and that he finally approved the matter after the bureaucrats determined that WE was the only organization capable of managing the cross country program.
In the “frenzy” of distributing funds to students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dion said there were “some deviations from the regular policy-making process.” Nonetheless, he said nothing had been done inappropriately.
However, Dion came to a very different conclusion on Morneau, who abruptly resigned from politics last August as the WE case grabbed the headlines.
He concluded that the Kielburgers had “unhindered access” to Morneau’s office because the minister and his staff were close friends of the charity’s founders. He said Morneau broke the rules by not recusing the cabinet’s decision on the grant program and showing preferential treatment to the charity.
Angus said Dion’s Morneau report was “a truly astounding indictment of insider access” – a theme on which the committee’s majority report will expand.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2021.
The Canadian Press