Justin Trudeau will face opposition parties in the House of Commons on Tuesday for the first time since financial ties between his family and the WE Charity were revealed, and since Ottawa said that it awarded a contract to the group without a competitive process.
Mr. Trudeau will be in Question Period after criticism from the opposition that he took a personal day rather than attending Monday’s meeting, which was called by his government. He will answer opposition questions in the House but has yet to say whether he will accept an invitation to testify at the finance committee’s probe into the now-cancelled contract.
On Tuesday, the committee will hear from Canada’s top public servant, Ian Shugart, when it resumes hearings into the government’s arrangement with WE Charity. And next Tuesday, WE Charity co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger will also speak to the committee.
Since Mr. Trudeau last appeared in the House of Commons on July 8, revelations from WE Charity, the Trudeau government and civil servants have shown that the connections between the Liberals and the charity were deeper than previously known. In addition, the charity stood to be paid more than double what the Liberals first disclosed – from at least $19.5-million to as much as $43.5-million.
Mr. Trudeau first announced the new $912-million Canada Student Service Grant on April 22. WE’s role was revealed on June 25 and the contract cancelled on July 3, after accusations of a conflict of interest.
The Trudeaus frequently have participated in the charity’s events, and WE confirmed on July 9 that Mr. Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother have all been paid for work with the group. On July 10, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office confirmed that his daughter works for the charity.
Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. Morneau recused themselves from the cabinet decision to award WE the contract. Both have since apologized and are being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Mr. Trudeau’s absence on Parliament Hill was noted Monday by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“Instead of showing up to answer questions, as he said he would last week, he’s taking a personal day today,” Mr. Scheer said at a news conference.
Mr. Trudeau’s itinerary issued late Monday confirmed that he will be in Question Period on Tuesday. The Prime Minister’s Office did not explain Mr. Trudeau’s absence from the House on Monday. His itinerary said “personal,” which is generally used to describe his weekends off and vacations.
Challenged by Mr. Scheer on Monday over the Prime Minister’s absence, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said it’s her job to “be accountable to this chamber when the Prime Minister is not here.”
The House of Commons had only been scheduled to sit on Wednesday but the government recalled the House earlier in order to pass a new government bill, C-20. The legislation includes new money for Canadians with disabilities, as well as measures to approve changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy announced Friday by Mr. Morneau.
The House agreed unanimously Monday to have the bill debated and dealt with by Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Scheer said his party supports the disability payments but is concerned that the wage subsidy measures are overly complicated.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took credit for improvements to the bill but said it is “not enough. There is still so much more that needs to be done.”
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet has called on Mr. Trudeau to step aside while the WE Charity matter is under investigation. Still, Mr. Blanchet said, the Bloc will support Bill C-20, giving the government the votes it needs to pass it into law.
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