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Canada COMMENTARY: Justin Trudeau’s testimony leaves us with an implausible WE Charity narrative

19:28  01 august  2020
19:28  01 august  2020 Source:   globalnews.ca

COMMENTARY: Trudeau’s weak case for WE looks weaker under scrutiny

  COMMENTARY: Trudeau’s weak case for WE looks weaker under scrutiny The head of PSAC tells Mike Smyth that it's 'insulting' for Justin Trudeau to claim that only WE Charity could have administered the student grant program.WE Charity was the only organization in Canada capable of doing the job, the prime minister has said repeatedly.

Justin Trudeau sitting at a desk in front of a laptop computer: The WE controversy that has been dogging the Liberals is expected to continue to follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government after Trudeau's appearance before a House of Commons committee Thursday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building on Thursday, July 30, 2020. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick The WE controversy that has been dogging the Liberals is expected to continue to follow Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government after Trudeau's appearance before a House of Commons committee Thursday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building on Thursday, July 30, 2020.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The Latest: Trudeau to testify on WE and student-volunteer program

  The Latest: Trudeau to testify on WE and student-volunteer program OTTAWA — The latest developments on July 30, 2020, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to testify to the House of Commons finance committee about his government's aborted deal with WE Charity to run a student-volunteer program. (All times Eastern.) 11:15 a.m. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to come clean about the events surrounding his government's decision to award WE Charity a deal to run a student-volunteer program. The Conservative leader says he expects Trudeau to explain why a program touted as having a $912-million budget was to spend far less, and why no other organization could have run the effort.

It’s possible, I suppose, for one to accept at face value the prime minister’s story for how events unfolded with WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program.

But at this point that would require one to be rather, shall we say, charitable.

We already know that neither Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Finance Minister Bill Morneau recused themselves from the decision to award the CSSG to WE Charity. Furthermore, we already know that Morneau accepted over $40,000 worth of free travel from WE Charity in 2017 and only reimbursed that money a few weeks ago.

The conflicts of interest already seemed quite apparent going into the prime minister’s testimony Thursday before the Commons Finance Committee.

Read more: 5 takeaways from Trudeau’s testimony in WE Charity scandal investigation

Scheer lays out line of questioning for Trudeau's appearance at finance committee

  Scheer lays out line of questioning for Trudeau's appearance at finance committee Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid out the key questions his team will put to Justin Trudeau today when the prime minister appears before the Commons finance committee probing the WE Charity controversy. Trudeau is set to answer questions before the committee starting at 3 p.m. ET. The panel is digging into why the government picked WE Charity to run a student volunteer program worth more than $900 million, and why the PM did not recuse himself from related cabinet talks given that his family members had been paid by the organization. Trudeau is scheduled to testify for one hour. Opposition MPs have pushed to have him remain in the hot seat for three hours.

But now we’re being asked to accept a version of events from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that is neither plausible nor credible.

So while Trudeau might have scored some political points for his willingness to appear before the committee, I’m not sure his testimony will help him in the long run.

First of all, it seems rather strange that the prime minister would have had so many concerns about this proposal — “pushed back,” as he said in his opening remarks Thursday — but that those concerns would have been so deliberately dismissed and disregarded by the public service.

It also seems strange that the same public service that was being shut out of administering this program would have been so insistent that the only possible option for the CSSG was WE Charity.

Then there’s the problem of the timeline. We know the dates of many of the key moments in this affair, but there are some troubling questions pertaining to many of them. The PMO’s explanations are rather hard to believe.

Trudeau denies, deflects — and apologizes — in testimony to committee looking at WE scandal

  Trudeau denies, deflects — and apologizes — in testimony to committee looking at WE scandal OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “pushed back” on the public service’s recommendation to outsource a $912-million student volunteer grant program to WE Charity because he feared the “perception” of a conflict of interest. “WE Charity received no preferential treatment, not from me, not from anyone else. The public service recommended WE Charity, and I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation,” Trudeau said. For the“WE Charity received no preferential treatment, not from me, not from anyone else. The public service recommended WE Charity, and I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation,” Trudeau said.

For example, Trudeau claims he first learned of the involvement of WE Charity on May 8, just hours before a planned cabinet meeting to discuss the program. But that leaves us with a month when, somehow and for some reason, the prime minister was kept completely in the dark.

On or around April 7, Morneau’s office contacted WE Charity and other groups looking for input on potential government programs. On April 9, WE Charity sent an unsolicited proposal for a youth program to Small Business Minister Mary Ng and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger.

Between then and April 22 — the day Trudeau announced a student aid plan that included the idea of a paid student volunteer program — WE Charity sent an updated proposal based on that announcement that made its way to Morneau, Ng and Chagger.

Read more: Trudeau says he didn’t know WE Charity might get grant until matter came to cabinet

The following day, in a video call that leaked on June 12, WE co-founder Marc Kielburger claimed that the PMO contacted them directly about a volunteer program (Marc Kielburger later claimed that he misspoke on that call).

Sunday Scrum: Morneau, Trudeau under fire for WE Charity partnership

  Sunday Scrum: Morneau, Trudeau under fire for WE Charity partnership CBC News Network's Sunday Scrum panel is your destination for frank discussion and analysis of the week's big political stories. This week, we talk to our panellists about Finance Minister Bill Morneau's revelations that he failed to repay WE Charity more than $40,000 in travel-related expenses in 2017 as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to testify before the House of Commons finance committee this week. Plus, the panellists discussThis week, we talk to our panellists about Finance Minister Bill Morneau's revelations that he failed to repay WE Charity more than $40,000 in travel-related expenses in 2017 as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to testify before the House of Commons finance committee this wee

On April 26, Morneau spoke with Craig Kielburger (both claim the CSSG didn’t come up).

So it’s possible, I suppose, all of this talk about WE Charity administering this new program was kept from the prime minister. That’s hard enough to accept, but the events of May 5 make it even harder to believe.

Previously released documents show that WE Charity began working on the CSSG on that day — three days before the prime minister supposedly knew anything about this, and 17 days before cabinet finally voted to approve the program.

Also on May 5, Rick Theis, director of policy and cabinet affairs for the prime minister, spoke directly to WE Charity. In her testimony Thursday, Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford struggled to reconcile those two developments.

So now we’re expected to believe that the PMO spoke directly with WE Charity on the very same day they started working on this program and that still at this point the prime minister knew nothing. That’s a lot of the benefit of the doubt being expended here.

This is a serious political scandal the government finds itself embroiled in and there’s the very real prospect of the ethics commissioner finding for a third time that the prime minister has violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

The finance minister may also find himself on the wrong end of a similar finding from the commissioner. So clearly, there’s some incentive for the PMO to try and put the best possible spin on the process and the decision.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to testify today on WE Charity controversy

  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to testify today on WE Charity controversy OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau will be in the hot seat today for a rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee, facing questions about his role in the simmering controversy involving the WE organization. MPs on the finance committee will grill Trudeau about the events that led to his Liberal cabinet asking the WE Charity to oversee a $912-million program that provides grants to students and graduates for volunteering. Trudeau'sMPs on the finance committee will grill Trudeau about the events that led to his Liberal cabinet asking the WE Charity to oversee a $912-million program that provides grants to students and graduates for volunteering.

As such, we have good reason to have serious doubts about their version of events.

Rob Breakenridge is the host of 'Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge' on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News.


Video: WE scandal: MP Angus says ‘lack of accountability’ makes it hard to believe Craig, Marc Kielburger (Global News)

Trudeau’s approval rating drops amid WE scandal, faith in Liberals remains: poll .
Despite strong approval for his handling of the coronavirus, the prime minister's approval rating has taken a hit amid the WE charity scandal, according to a new poll by Angus Reid.Trudeau's approval rating in May sat at 55 per cent, but that number fell to 44 per cent as of July 23, the survey showed. Half of the respondents said their opinion of Trudeau has worsened in the past month.

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