Finance Minister Bill Morneau did not recuse himself from cabinet’s decision to award WE Charity a now-cancelled contract even though he and his family have travelled with the organization and one of his daughters works there.
“Minister Morneau and his family went on a trip to Ecuador with WE in December, 2017,” spokesman Pierre-Olivier Herbert said on Friday.
“His wife and his daughter Clare also went on a trip to Kenya in July, 2017. In both cases, the Morneau family covered all associated costs and expenses.”
Mr. Morneau’s daughter, Grace Acan, who he and his wife sponsored to come from Uganda in 2010, works on contract for WE Charity. She started working there in 2019 and her contract expires in August, the minister’s office said.
“She is a contractual employee of WE in an administrative role in the travel department,” spokeswoman Maéva Proteau said in a separate statement on Friday. “Ms. Acan’s term contract has absolutely no link with any work the charity has done with the government of Canada.”
The Friday revelation follows Thursday’s news that members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in WE Charity events. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Morneau were involved in the decision to award WE the contract to administer a $900-million program.
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“Mr. Morneau did not recuse himself from the discussions,” Ms. Proteau said.
Ms. Acan’s position at the charity was first reported by the online news outlet Canadaland on Friday, as was the connection between Mr. Morneau’s daughter, Clare Morneau, and WE.
Mr. Morneau’s office said Ms. Morneau has spoken at WE events but “has never been compensated for that work.”
On Friday, the NDP asked Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion to investigate whether Mr. Morneau broke the Conflict of Interest Act. The commissioner is already investigating Mr. Trudeau. Also on Friday, the Conservatives asked the RCMP to launch a criminal probe.
The Conflict of Interest Act requires public-office holders to recuse themselves from “any discussion, decision, debate or vote” that would put them in a conflict of interest.
On Thursday, WE Charity said Mr. Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother had been paid to participate in its events. Mr. Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, received about a quarter of a million dollars for events she took part in since 2016.
That contradicted comments from the Prime Minister’s Office to The Globe and Mail and a statement from WE Charity to Canadaland. The Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday denied that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was paid to take part in events, and Canadaland reported that WE Charity previously denied Margaret Trudeau was paid.
Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. Morneau has addressed the revelations.
In June, Mr. Trudeau announced his government had awarded the charity a contract to run the program, which would pay students for volunteer work. The contract was cancelled last week amid questions over whether the Prime Minister was in a conflict of interest.
WE Charity was to be paid at least $19.5-million, with $5-million of that going to other organizations.
Mr. Trudeau said this week that his cabinet made the final decision to award the contract, and that despite his family’s ties to the charity, he did not recuse himself from the discussion or the decision.
The Globe asked all cabinet ministers whether they knew Mr. Trudeau’s family was paid when they decided to award WE Charity the contract.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office said he was not aware of it. Spokespeople for Labour Minister Filomena Tassi and Middle Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier said they could not comment because of cabinet confidentiality.
None of the other 33 ministers replied.
The Globe and Mail is a media partner of WE Charity.
In Ottawa on Friday, the Conservatives said the developments regarding Mr. Trudeau’s family connections to WE warranted a criminal investigation under Section 121 of the Criminal Code, which covers fraud against the government.
“There are sufficient grounds for this matter to be investigated by police,” Conservative MP Michael Barrett told reporters.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Jennifer Quaid, a criminal law professor at the University of Ottawa, said if the police open a file, they will investigate whether there was an understanding between WE Charity and the Prime Minister, or if the payments to Mr. Trudeau’s family were made with the expectation of quid pro quo.
“Those are threads you’ve got to pull all the way through,” she said.
Prof. Quaid also said she does not like seeing political parties make “almost direct demands” of police forces to investigate their opponents. “I think that’s not appropriate,” she said.
Mr. Dion’s conflict investigation of Mr. Trudeau is the Prime Minister’s third. In the previous probes, the commissioner found he broke the law.
The most recent was last year’s study of the SNC-Lavalin affair. The RCMP were also called on to investigate that matter.
The Globe has reported that the RCMP are determining whether there is enough evidence to launch a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice by senior PMO officials who pressed the attorney-general in 2018 to order a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
On Friday, the Mounties said they could not comment on the status of that probe.
In 2017, The Globe reported Mr. Morneau had not placed his substantial private holdings in a blind trust, which led to months of heated questions over his personal ethics. He maintained he followed the advice of the Ethics Commissioner.
The Ethics Commissioner later investigated whether Mr. Morneau was in a conflict of interest when he introduced a bill on private-pension rules. The minister was cleared, but the commissioner’s office fined him $200 for failing to disclose all relevant details of his ownership in a villa in France.
In 2016, The Globe revealed Mr. Trudeau and senior cabinet ministers were holding private fundraisers for as much as $1,500 a ticket.
Mr. Morneau held an event with a ticket price of $1,500 with a group of Halifax business people in October, 2016.
He attended one in Toronto organized by a business executive whose generic drug firm lobbies the government. The tickets were $500. The event was at the Toronto condominium of philanthropist Nancy Pencer and funeral-home executive Michael Benjamin.
The Liberal government later passed legislation that requires political events to be transparent and open to the public.
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