The opposition MPs are set to interrogate Trudeau’s role in the WE Charity student grant scandal during today’s hearing slated to start at 3 p.m. ET. The meeting comes after Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre successfully passed a motion on Wednesday. The two have said they only want the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding the affair. Poilievre said that in case Trudeau didn’t give exhaustive answers during the meeting, the House of Commons would vote in September to recall him for another round of testimony.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his committee was focused on getting to the bottom of the affair before determining what further measures needed to be taken. He further stated that the evidence had suggested it’s beyond just the prime minister; so, they needed to know the truth and also to know who was precisely involved. Besides, he said it looked like the prime minister and the Liberal government behind closed doors had been working to give millions of dollars to their close friends.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons Ethics Committee met to seek answers from all the cabinet ministers regarding the connections Trudeau had with other top Liberal officials and WE. The motion was voted down by the Liberal and NDP committee members. The committee is looking into the Conflict of Interest Act aspect of the scandal and whether changes are needed to put up a more substantial conflict of interest shields in the Prime Minister’s Office, but also has requested access to Trudeau family financial records regarding speaking arrangements.
Nonetheless, the liberal MPs said the motion was “poorly drafted” and overbroad, suggesting that every cabinet minister would have to account for their cousins and other distant relatives’ possible involvement with WE. Liberal MP and committee member Greg Fergus argued that asking cabinet members to reveal their family experience with WE would be better left to the ethics commissioner to undertake.
The NDP and Conservatives have scheduled mid-afternoon press conferences to speak about the scandal. Federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has already launched investigations into a possible conflict of interest code breaches by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Trudeau for not recusing themselves from the cabinet discussions about outsourcing the grant program to WE given Trudeau and Morneau’s family members had benefited from WE.
Arguably the student’s group has said it is already too late for many even to strike the set threshold of 100 hours of volunteer work to receive a $1,000 grant, even if the government can get the program up and running. The affected students have called upon the government to change course, scrap the program, and find another way to help them cover their schooling costs amid the current situation.
To run the initially budgeted $912 million program, WE are set to receive $43.5 million. However, testimony has revealed that the actual take-up of the program was likely to be much less, with between $500 million and $300 million estimated to be issued in grants to participants.
The Tories have presented new evidence to the ethics commissioner in relation to what is Trudeau’s third conflict of interest probe since he became prime minister, suggesting the new information be included in his ongoing conflict of interest investigation.
Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, received a “one-time speaking honorarium” of $1,400 for participating in a youth event in 2012 before Trudeau became the leader of the Liberal Party. She continues to host a podcast under the WE banner.
It is also reported that Sophie had participated in a total of seven WE Days and received an average of $3,618 per event to cover her expenses.
On the other hand, Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, has spoken at around 28 WE events and was paid $250,000 in speaking honorariums between 2016 and 2020. His brother, Alexandre (Sasha) Trudeau, also spoke at eight events from 2017 to 2018 and was paid a total of about $32,000.Besides, the Trudeaus were also reimbursed for direct costs, beyond the speaking fees, averaging $5,998 for Margaret and $2,447 for Sasha.
According to Conservative MP and ethics critic Michael Barrett, over half a million dollars has been used to benefit members of Justin Trudeau’s family from this WE program.