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Family ties with the WE organization played no role in being awarded a contract to administer a $ 912 million student-volunteer program, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his speech to opening during a rare appearance by the Prime Minister before a House of Commons committee.
“We Charity has not received any preferential treatment. Neither from me nor from anyone else, ”Trudeau said.
Trudeau said he only learned about the program’s plans a few hours before it was on the agenda at a May 8 cabinet meeting.
“My chief of staff and I were discovering this important part of the program just hours before the cabinet meeting,” said Trudeau, who was quick even during the high-octane political environment of the pandemic. of COVID-19.
Trudeau said he removed the agenda from Cabinet meetings, which was not an easy decision. After nearly two weeks of further deliberation, Trudeau said he had been told that “if the program were to go ahead, it could only be with WE Charity.”
During a question-and-answer period with MPs, Trudeau said it was not true that the program was accelerated because WE Charity was receiving favorable treatment.
“I actually slowed down and pushed back to make sure everything was done right because I knew questions would be asked about ties to my family,” Trudeau said.
Despite appearing at several WE charity events, Trudeau said he never spoke to co-founders Marc and Craig Kielburger in the months surrounding the contract award.
“I’m not friends with the Kielburgers. I know them, but I don’t have a close connection, ”Trudeau said.
Conservative MP Michael Barrett asked Trudeau if he still thinks WE Charity would have been a good fit for the contract.
“We’ll never know because they pulled out of the program,” Trudeau said, admitting that was in part because he had not withdrawn from the Cabinet discussion.
The meeting took an odd turn when Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who chairs the committee, lost his power due to a thunderstorm and other Liberal MPs called for the meeting to be suspended while Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre grilled Trudeau. After some confusion, MPs learned that protocol dictates the Vice President to take control of the meeting, which in this case was Poilievre.
“I recognize the hon. Member for Carleton,” said Poilievre, referring to his own riding in the Ottawa area.