Trudeau to testify on WE Charity controversy [UPDATED]
Trudeau's chief of staff is also scheduled to testify
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau will be in the hot seat July 30 for a rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee, facing questions about his role in the simmering controversy involving the WE organization.
MPs on the finance committee are to grill Trudeau about the events that led to his Liberal cabinet asking the WE Charity to oversee a $912-million program that provides grants to students and graduates for volunteering.
Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford is also scheduled to testify July 30.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he hopes to learn from Trudeau what due diligence was done on the WE organization before he declared in late June that WE was the only organization capable of administering the Canada Student Service Grant.
Scheer says he expects Trudeau to explain why this program, touted as having a $912-million budget, was expected to actually spend far less, and why no other organizations were considered for the job.
Scheer also took aim at WE, criticizing the charity’s structure and its co-founders — concerns he says raise additional questions about the government’s agreement with the organization.
He is calling on Trudeau to answer questions for three hours, following a motion passed July 29 by the MPs on the finance committee requesting longer appearances by both Trudeau and Telford.
On July 29, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre — who will be those questioning the PM July 30 — warned that if the prime minister doesn’t fully answer questions about his own and his family’s ties to the WE organization, they will call him back again.
“We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Poilievre told reporters in Ottawa July 29.
Many of the Conservatives’ questions for Trudeau will also revolve around hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees paid to members of his family for appearing at WE events, along with related expenses, Poilievre said.
WE had previously confirmed that Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, was paid about $250,000 for 28 speaking appearances at WE-related events between 2016 and 2020 and his brother Alexandre has been paid $32,000 for eight events.
WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger testified July 28 that Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has participated in seven WE Days and received an average of $3,618 for each event, to cover her expenses. That works out to $25,326 in total.
The Conservatives are now calling on federal ethics czar Mario Dion to widen his probe of Trudeau to include travel expenses WE covered in addition to speaking fees for his mother, wife and brother.
“What else is he hiding in this affair?” Poilievre said July 29.
On July 29, Dion sent letters to Conservative and NDP MPs saying he is widening his investigations into trips Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his family participated in that were sponsored by the WE organization.
Morneau told the Commons finance committee last week he had freshly repaid WE Charity more than $41,000 in expenses for trips he and his family took in 2017 to see and take part in some of the organization’s humanitarian work.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he believes details that have emerged since the program was announced suggest the deal awarding WE the Canada Student Services Grant program was never about students, but about helping close friends of the Liberals and of Trudeau.
“That is deeply troubling,” he said July 29 in Burnaby, B.C.
“A prime minister should work for people, should work for Canadians, should not be working in the interest of enriching his or her family or his or her close friends.”
By Teresa Wright