Corbella: Trudeau's WE scandal testimony leaves him battered and bruised

PM Trudeau set to testify regarding WE charity controversy

The same set of documents included the contribution agreement with WE Charity, which stipulated that the organization could charge for expenses starting May 5 - before cabinet signed off on the grant program.

They said, according to Trudeau, that they can either deliver the program via WE Charity or not deliver it at all.

The prime minister denied that he or his government played favourites with WE Charity.

While speaking in Ottawa, the Prime Minister was asked about whether he shares in the responsibility for the hit that the WE Charity has taken in recent weeks, including the withdrawal of corporate sponsors.

WE Charity had previously paid the prime minister's mother and brother to speak at events between 2017-18 and Trudeau and his wife were involved with the organisation.

He went on to say that "delivering a grant program to students who volunteer across the country has absolutely nothing to do with any work my brother or mother did with WE, and that's why there was no conflict of interest".

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. Trudeau's wife, brother and mother have been paid a combined $300,000 Canadian (US$221,000) for speaking at a number of WE events.

Canada's ethics commissioner is investigating Trudeau over the matter.

But the government had already rolled out the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit and it has the long-standing Canada Summer Jobs Grant program that could have been expanded and enriched to ensure more businesses and charities could hire students and pay them at least minimum wage, rather than the $10 per hour under the CSSG. Had this program gone ahead - which is a $543.5-million program, and $912 million as the PM initially announced - WE Charity would have received up to $43.5 million in administration fees.

Trudeau said he chose to pull the CSSG from the May 8 cabinet agenda - three days after the government's COVID-19 cabinet committee endorsed the recommendation - and asked the public service for "further due diligence".

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois have demanded his resignation, as Trudeau did not recuse himself from decisions, and his family received payments from WE Charity for their appearances. "I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation".

Telford also said she was not aware that the deal was signed with the WE Charity Foundation, an organization opposition members call a "shell charity" that has no assets.

The agreement with WE Charity to oversee the CSSG collapsed on July 3 amid public scrutiny and criticism of the decision. NDP MP Charlie Angus noted the federal ethics commissioner has found he violated the Conflict of Interest Act twice as prime minister.

Trudeau also defended Morneau's intentions in going on the trip. It includes approval for WE-paid travel expenses for a trip she took to London, March.

Trudeau said he didn't know Morneau had travelled with WE or that one of his daughters worked there.

The Globe has a sponsorship partnership with WE Charity.



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