Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, and Katie Telford, his chief of staff, have both just agreed to testify before the House of Commons finance committee. They will be grilled in the parliament over the government’s now-canceled decision to have WE Charity manage a $912-million federal program. The Prime Minister’s Office reported that he had agreed to appear at the Finance Committee.
Given the personal connections to the organization by Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, they have apologized for not distancing themselves from conversations on granting WE Charity the student volunteer program. WE Charity currently employs the finance minister’s daughter Grace while his daughter Clare has spoken at WE events. Moreover, Trudeau’s mother brother and wife have all been paid for their involvement in WE Charity events.
Morneau’s family also took two trips in 2017 that WE Charity paid for in part, but on Wednesday, he refunded the $41,000 that the charity had initially covered on the flights. He added that in recent years, his wife had made two $50,000 donations to the organization. However, investigations are on the way to the two politicians by the ethics commissioner over their involvement with the deal. Also, the commission will determine if it constituted a breach of conflict of interest laws. The last time a committee invited a prime minister was in September 2006, when then-prime minister Stephen Harper appeared before a Senate committee to discuss Senate reform.
Besides, Trudeau turned down efforts by an ethics committee to request the prime minister to testify on his vacation on a private island owned by the Aga Khan the Christmas prior. This vacation was later revealed to have violated the 11th paragraph of the Conflict of Interest Act. Liberals on the same committee in 2019 also applied their majority to turn down an effort to invite Trudeau to testify on the SNC-Lavalin affair. Trudeau will be given a chance to provide opening remarks sharing his thoughts on the issue when he will be speaking before the parliamentary committee.
Morneau was questioned on Wednesday on everything from his potential infringements of the Conflict of Interest Act to calls for his resignation. The meeting came to an end when Michael Cooper, Conservative MP, provided the notice of a motion for the committee to eventually discuss calls for the finance minister’s immediate resignation. Wayne Easter, the chair of the finance committee, said on Wednesday that the committee had initially invited the prime minister to appear on July 28.
On his part, Trudeau indicated that he “made a mistake” as didn’t recuse himself from discussions about awarding the contract to WE Charity. However, Bloc Quebecois MP Rheal Fortin told the finance minister during his grilling Morneau on Wednesday that an apology could not be enough. Trudeau gave his apology in a July 13 press conference. Trudeau also said that the mistake that they made was on him, and he takes responsibility for it. He added that he was very sorry about everything.