Lawyers are currently inspecting personal information and cabinet secrets after the federal Liberal government handed over thousands of pages of documents associated with the WE controversy to a House of Commons committee. Last month, the finance committee asked for the documents as it investigates if the government’s disastrous resolution to have the organization run a federal student-volunteer program was affected by the connection between the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s and WE Charity.
The committee hopes the documents will reveal the discussions before the deal was canceled amid controversy in early July, which resulted in the decision to have WE run the Canada Student Services Grant. Peter Julian, the NDP finance critic, stated that there’d been a lot of contradictions in testimony. Thus, the documents should be revealing a lot more of what the real answers are. It wasn’t clear when they would release the more than 5,000 pages over to the committee ahead of Saturday’s deadline to members as committee lawyers go through them to prevent the release of protected information.
On Sunday, Pierre Poilievre, a conservative finance critic, stated that they had not been given the timeline. As additional lawyers from the public service have been brought in to help review them for cabinet secrets and other information, committee chairman Wayne Easter, a Liberal MP, predicted the documents would be released in the coming days to members.
However, there could be disagreements about why certain information was withheld. Easter also indicated that the professional public service was conducting the vetting. The documents which are prepared for ministers to aid government deliberations and decision-making are legally protected from unauthorized release and were marked as cabinet confidences that hold closely guarded political secrets.
Easter added that they respect the integrity of the public service, and that is the reason why there is no political participation in the redacting of those papers, and the law clerk is involved. Since it was revealed on June 25, the Liberals have been embroiled in a controversy that WE had been chosen to run the Canada Student Services Grant. In encouraging students to sign up for volunteer work related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sole-sourced arrangement with WE was to pay one of its foundations up to $43.5 million to administer a grant program designed. Since then, Trudeau and Bill Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the cabinet’s discussions.
Just for appearing at WE events, Trudeau’s mother and brother were paid almost $300,000 and reimbursed about $200,000 in expenses. Trudeau’s wife has also had expenses covered. At the same time, Morneau agreed that he repaid WE about $41,000 in sponsored travel for him and his family to view the charity’s humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya in 2017. However, the decision was based on a recommendation from the non-partisan public service after concluding that WE were the only organization capable of running the grant program. Also, all eyes are focusing on an agreement between a Crown corporation and a company employing the husband of Trudeau’s chief of staff and the agreement between the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and MCAP.
Trudeau indicated that even before COVID-19, Telford had established transparent, ethical walls between herself and MCAP in January. Given that the government is already managing the federal wage subsidy for businesses struggling during the pandemic, Poilievre questioned why it didn’t simply ask the Canada Revenue Agency to run the rent-assistance program. On Sunday, a spokeswoman for CMHC, Audrey-Anne Coulombe, stated that that the federal housing agency had decided to go with an outside sub-administrator. Easter expressed concern about the committee not focusing on its main task of preparing for next year’s federal budget and overseeing COVID-19 spending because of the distractions from the opposition “fishing” efforts.