Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied Thursday that a charity chosen by the government to run a large scholarship program was given preferential treatment, despite having ties to his family.
Escalating scandal over multi-million dollar program awarded to WE Charity Canada hurt Trudeau in the polls, his Liberal Party slipping to a four-point lead over opposition Tories, poll found Abacus Data Thursday.
The popularity of the Liberal-led government had soared amid Canada’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“WE Charity has not received any preferential treatment, neither from me nor anyone else,” Trudeau said in an opening statement. “The public service recommended WE Charity. I did absolutely nothing to influence this recommendation. “
“How many?” “Just the dollar amount.”: MP Pierre Poilievre repeatedly asks Prime Minister Trudeau how much money his family has been paid by WE.
Live coverage continues here: https://t.co/9A0P8TVYlx pic.twitter.com/bJuaSGhC3g
– CTV News (@CTVNews) July 30, 2020
This is consistent with the testimony of the public service before the same committee. Amid frantic efforts to push programs out the door to help Canadians during the pandemic, the public service recommended WE Charity as the only organization capable of rapidly implementing the C $ 500 million ($ 372 million ).
The government previously said the program would grant students up to C $ 900 million ($ 670 million).
The Prime Minister has already publicly apologized for participating in Cabinet’s decision to choose WE Charity to administer the grant program, as it created a perceived conflict of interest. The charity withdrew shortly after the program was announced.
The testimony of a Canadian Prime Minister before a parliamentary committee is very unusual. This last happened in 2006 when then Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared before one of them to talk about Senate reform.
“We could have done better,” Trudeau chief of staff Katie Telford told the same committee after the prime minister’s speech. She said another level of control could have been added to allay any perception of conflict of interest.
The “partnerships” and “executive files” files were removed from We headquarters on Wednesday. Don’t you know where they were going? I wonder if any of the information in those boxes will appear today when @JustinTrudeau is at the booth? @craigkielburger can you tell us what it was about? pic.twitter.com/3N9ZRUqg9L
– Joe Warmington (@joe_warmington) 30 juillet 2020
Trudeau’s testimony comes after he was brought under investigation for possible conflict of interest violations. This is the third ethical inquiry he has to face in three years.
Canada’s Ethics Commissioner launched the investigation after WE Charity revealed that she paid Trudeau’s mother and brother for speaking out.
The Prime Minister and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, have regularly participated in WE charity events.