Widening charity scandal engulfs Canada's Justin Trudeau

Trudeau

Trudeau

The prime minister says he did not know that WE Charity was selected to administer the Canadian Student Service Grant.

He admits he should have recused himself from the contract with WE Charity but his interest in youth issues clouded his decision-making. "The public service recommended WE Charity".

"As we know now, and as I look back in hindsight, it would have been better, instead of pushing back and asking extra verification, if I had simply removed myself entirely from the discussion".

More than three hours of testimony at the House of Commons finance committee's probe into the WE Charity was nothing more than "political theatre", says a local political analyst.

The nearly billion-dollar program came under scrutiny after it was revealed that WE Charity, an organization Trudeau's family has worked for, was chosen to administer it.

"My ask of the public servants and of the minister was to absolutely make sure that what they were suggesting was the hard and cold truth - that there was no other organization that could deliver this program, that the delivery of this program was going to be successful, that this was the right organization for it", he said.

"When I learned that We Charity was recommended, I pushed back".

In his testimony, Trudeau acknowledged his family's involvement with WE: his mother, brother and wife have participated in and spoken at WE events, and have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and expenses, although he testified the amounts were not previously known to him.

"But did not pay her".

Now we await the result of the latest investigation of Trudeau by the parliamentary Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

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She also said Trudeau's office will work with the ethics commissioner to make improvements and take any advice he has on how to limit potential conflicts.

"He's presenting himself as being noble and doing it only for the children and they had lots of important stuff and as well I think also for the opposition parties, I don't think they were really interested in understanding how this happened, it was more looking at gotchya moments", she says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability in West Block on July 8, 2020.

It has also been revealed that Finance Minister Bill Morneau's daughters have direct ties to the charity and that his family had costs for two trips he took with the organization in 2017 partially covered.

In previous investigations, Trudeau was found to have violated ethics rules in the PMO/SNC Lavalin/Jody Wilson-Raybould scandal, as well as a 2016 visit by the prime minister and his family and friends to the Aga Khan's private Bahamas island.

Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, will testify before the committee when the prime minister has finished. He repaid $41,366 in unpaid expenses prior to his testimony before the Commons committee last Wednesday.

The prime minister is to be commended for appearing before this committee - something he was not required to do.

The Kielburgers have said officials told WE it could incur eligible expenses before being awarded the agreement. "Why were they told they could start charging expenses before the program was even approved?"

He also said he knew both his brother Alexandre and his mother, Margaret, were paid speakers for the WE organization, but denied knowing how much they had been paid (over $300,000 in total).

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