The federal government awarded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s half-brother a $12,430 contract last year to speak and take part in a cryptocurrency conference in Switzerland.
Kyle Kemper says he was asked to be the “champion speaker” at the Crypto Valley Blockchain Conference in Zug, Switzerland, because of his expertise, and that the contract had nothing to do with his family. Mr. Kemper was previously the executive director of the Blockchain Association of Canada and he wrote a book called The Unified Wallet: Unlocking the Digital Golden Age.
Mr. Kemper is the son of Margaret Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s mother, from her marriage with Fried Kemper.
The Prime Minister’s Office said the contract was approved by the public service at Global Affairs Canada and the Prime Minister “had no involvement.” However, opposition MPs said the Liberal government should explain how the contract was awarded. Mr. Trudeau has been under fire for his involvement in awarding management of a $900-million program to WE Charity, which has close ties to the Liberals and Trudeau family members.
Mr. Kemper said he was invited after Canadian officials heard him speak about blockchain technology at a conference in Dubai. He said they recommended to their colleagues in Switzerland that he speak at a blockchain conference in that country, and so he was invited. The conference took place in June, 2019.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Bitcoin was invented a decade ago and the companies in the sector have only been public for a few years.
Mr. Kemper spoke at the conference and also ran a booth, he said, where he talked to attendees about the Canadian blockchain industry. He said the $12,430 figure included flights and accommodations.
“It had nothing to do with family … this is all the work that I do,” Mr. Kemper said. “I literally, because of my family, I can’t do things. Doors are closed. You might think it would be the opposite.”
Krystyna Dodds, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said “champions” of the Private Sector Investment Champion Speakers Program (PSICSP) are selected by departmental officials from Global Affairs Canada.
“The selection criteria for these speakers include their recognition/visibility in the business community, sectoral/subject expertise, and speaking capacity,” Ms. Dodds said.
NDP MP Charlie Angus said he sees two issues with Mr. Kemper’s speaking gig in Switzerland – one is his connection to the Prime Minister, and the other is that the government hasn’t taken a position on the technology.
“Once again it’s an example of the Prime Minister’s close family benefiting from their relationship to Justin Trudeau,” Mr. Angus said.
“It becomes even more questionable when he’s speaking on behalf of a technology he’s promoting that Canada has not formally taken a position on,” Mr. Angus added.
Michael Barrett, the ethics critic for the Conservative party, said the Liberal government “must fully disclose” how the contract was awarded.
“As Justin Trudeau’s current $900-million scandal shows, the Prime Minister has a tendency to reward his friends and those close to him. When it comes to taxpayers’ dollars, full accountability and transparency is essential,” Mr. Barrett said, referring to the cancelled WE Charity contract.
Mr. Kemper maintains his extensive work in the field is what led to the opportunity in Switzerland. In addition to writing a book and his past work for the Blockchain Association of Canada, his LinkedIn page is spattered with experience in that area. In his About section, he wrote that he had his “bitcoin awakening” in 2013.
“That’s my expertise and I’d love to talk to you all about how blockchain can radically transform Canada and bring about a golden age, I would love somebody’s ear on that because I know I don’t have the ear of the man you’re looking to write about,” he told The Globe.
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