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. Additionally, we already know that Morneau accepted over $ 40,000 in free travel from WE Charity in 2017 and only refunded that money a few weeks ago.
The conflicts of interest seemed obvious enough in the Prime Minister’s testimony Thursday before the Commons Finance Committee.
5 takeaways from Trudeau’s testimony in the investigation into the WE Charity scandal
The story continues under the ad
But now we are being asked to accept a version of events in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that is neither plausible nor credible.
So while Trudeau may have scored 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 odd that the Prime Minister had so many concerns about this proposal – “pushed back”, as he said in his opening remarks on Thursday – but that those concerns would have been so deliberately dismissed and ignored by the public service.
It also seems strange that the same utility that was excluded from administering this program was so insistent that the only possible option for the CSSG was WE Charity.
The story continues under the ad
Then there is the issue of the timeline. We know the dates of many of the key moments in this case, but there are troubling questions about many of them. The explanations of the PMO are quite hard to believe.
U.S. red onions may contain salmonella, health officials warn
Trump says he plans to ban TikTok in US, opposes Chinese sale
For example, Trudeau says he first learned of WE Charity’s involvement on May 8, just hours before a scheduled Cabinet meeting to discuss the program. But that leaves us with a month where somehow and for some reason the prime minister has been kept completely in the dark.
On or about April 7, Morneau’s office reached out to WE Charity and other groups seeking feedback on potential government programs. On April 9, WE Charity sent an unsolicited proposal for a youth program to Small Business Minister Mary Ng and Minister of Youth Bardish Chagger.
Between that date and April 22 – the day Trudeau announced a student aid plan that included the idea of a paid student volunteer program – WE Charity sent out an updated proposal based on this announcement that makes its way to Morneau, Ng and Chagger.
Trudeau says he didn’t know WE Charity could get a grant until the matter returned to Cabinet
The next day, in a leaked video call on June 12, WE co-founder Marc Kielburger claimed the PMO contacted them directly about a volunteer program (Marc Kielburger later claimed that he had expressed himself badly during this call).
On April 26, Morneau spoke with Craig Kielburger (both claim that the CSSG did not come).
So it’s possible, I guess, that all of this talk about WE Charity administering this new program was left out of the prime minister. It’s hard enough to accept, but the events of May 5 make it even harder to believe.
Previously released documents show WE Charity started working on CSSG that day – three days before the Prime Minister knew anything about it, and 17 days before cabinet finally voted to approve the program.
Also on May 5, Rick Theis, Director of Policy and Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, spoke directly to WE Charity. In her testimony Thursday, Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford struggled to reconcile the two developments.
So now we are expected to believe that the PMO spoke directly with WE Charity on the very day they started working on this program and that at this point still the PM knew nothing. It is largely the advantage of the doubt that pervades here.
This is a serious political scandal in which the government finds itself embroiled in and there is the very real prospect that the Ethics Commissioner will find out for the third time that the Prime Minister has violated the Conflict Act. interests.
The Minister of Finance may also find himself on the wrong side of a similar conclusion by the Commissioner. It is therefore clear that the PMO has an incentive to try to give the best possible turn to the process and to the decision.
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 commentator for Global News.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.