Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office is ignoring requests he testify at a House of Commons committee over the government’s cancelled contract to have WE Charity administer a new $900-million program, according to Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.
The Conservatives, backed by the NDP and Bloc Québécois, put Mr. Trudeau on their witness list for the finance committee’s study of the contract. The study begins Thursday.
“I’m informed that finance [committee] officials have been unable to find anyone at the Prime Minister’s Office who will indicate the Prime Minister’s availability or lack thereof to testify,” Mr. Poilievre said Wednesday. “They can’t find anyone in the PMO who will even receive the inquiry.”
Prime Minister Trudeau and WE Charity: The story so far
A spokesperson for the finance committee said its officials will not comment on potential witnesses until their attendance is confirmed.
The government has been dogged by questions about a possible conflict of interest between the Prime Minister and the charity ever since WE’s role with the Canada Student Service Grant was announced on June 25. After the contract was cancelled on July 3, more information has come out about the many connections between WE and the Prime Minister and other senior Liberals.
In light of revelations that his wife, mother and brother have all been paid for their participation in WE charity events, the Prime Minister on Monday apologized for not recusing himself from the cabinet decision to award WE the contract.
Mr. Trudeau’s office is staying mum on his potential appearance and did not respond to The Globe and Mail’s request to clarify whether his officials have received the request from the finance committee and whether he will accept the invitation.
The Prime Minister’s Office also won’t say whether taxpayers paid for his mother, Margaret Trudeau, to appear at a WE event on Parliament Hill in July 2, 2017, which was connected to the Canada 150 celebrations. The federal government paid the charity $1.18-million for its involvement in the anniversary events.
Alex Wellstead, a spokesperson for Mr. Trudeau, said, “the organization and delivery of this event was done by WE Charity” and “the Prime Minister and his office were not aware of any payments to event participants.”
What does a prime minister have to do to get himself in real trouble?
Justin Trudeau offers a mea culpa, but not transparency
Last week, the charity confirmed that since 2016, Margaret Trudeau has been paid about $312,000 in speaking fees, which includes a commission to the speaking agency that represents her.
The WE Charity declined to say Wednesday whether Ms. Trudeau was paid for her participation at the Parliament Hill event.
“As mentioned previously, we are getting a significant number of requests from media at this time. While we remain committed to providing as much information as possible, we are still in the process of gathering and reviewing our internal records,” read the statement from the charity on Wednesday.
Questions about her appearance at the Parliament Hill event were first reported by the National Post. The Globe is a media partner of WE Charity.
The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is investigating whether Mr. Trudeau breached the Conflict of Interest Act.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.