Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during a sitting of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday July 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Scheer calls Liberals’ choice to give WE contract ‘corruption or incompetence’

Both Trudeau and Morneau have said they should have recused themselves from the decision

The Opposition Conservatives accused the Liberal government of either corruption or ignorance Monday as they pressed for more answers around a decision to hand control over a major student grant program to an organization with longtime ties to the Trudeau family.

The House of Commons was sitting to pass a new bill to extend the wage subsidy program, send a special COVID-19 top-up to people with disabilities and to extend legal deadlines for court cases.

While those measures were expected to pass on Tuesday with the support of all opposition parties, the same collegial spirit did not extend to question period.

There, the dominant line of inquiry was around the Liberal government’s decision to award WE Charity the responsibility for a $900 million student job program.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mother, in particular, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for participating in WE events, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughter works for an arm of the WE organization.

The organization has handed the program back to the government. Both Trudeau and Morneau have said they should have recused themselves from the decision.

But the international development and youth empowerment group is now under scrutiny for its internal practices, adding further fuel to the opposition’s charges that the decision to grant the contract to WE was suspect.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pointed Monday to a report by Canadaland that red flags were raised in 2018 by auditors reviewing WE’s financials, as well as the fact that their board had undergone a major shakeup earlier in the year.

“Either the Liberals were aware of these issues and still approved the decision or they were incompetent,” he said.

“It’s either corruption or incompetence, which is it?”

It is neither, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland replied repeatedly, nearly reading verbatim from a sheet of paper with the Liberals’ current top-line talking point on the issue: that the idea of having WE run the Canada Student Services Grant was brought forward by the non-partisan public service.

“The way this unfolded was regrettable and the charity will not longer be administering the project,” she said.

READ MORE: Commons finance committee to begin probing WE Charity’s volunteering contract

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the government’s approach to WE raises questions about whether the program was ever about students at all.

“There were lots of ways to help students. This was not it,” he said.

“It was a billion-dollar bailout of close friends of the Liberal party and of the prime minister.”

The House of Commons had been recalled to pass the latest suite of COVID-19 measures.

The Liberals want to extend the wage subsidy program to December and have its criteria loosened so more businesses can reopen and employ workers.

The original program covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.

The proposed changes will see the program pay on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.

The disability payment measures in the bill would provide up to $600 in a one-time payment to some Canadians with disabilities in order to help with COVID-19 costs.

The Liberals had sought to pass that measure in a bill last month, but did not get unanimous consent due to the opposition concerns with other elements in that particular bill.

Originally, the payment was limited to those who received the disability tax credit, but the new bill lays out expanded criteria to include, among others, veterans who are currently receiving disability supports.

Singh said ensuring the disability benefit went to far more Canadians was a win for his party, and why the NDP will back the new bill.

“It’s still not enough and we will continue fighting,” he told reporters afterwards.

The Tories said they too support the disabilities measures, but the new wage subsidy plan is too convoluted and they want the government to make it simpler.

Still, they intend to back the bill, having won concessions of their own: to get two days of debate for it instead of one, and at the same time securing the ability for the Commons committee on Canada-China relations to sit, as well as the public safety committee.

Tuesday’s sitting also opens up an opportunity for the Conservatives to do something else they were hoping to achieve Monday, but couldn’t — press the prime minister himself.

Trudeau took the day off Monday, and the Tories suggested he was skipping out on questions about WE.

He is expected to attend Tuesday’s sitting, as well as for the special COVID-19 committee of MPs that is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

A lingering question is whether Trudeau will also appear at the House of Commons finance committee, where MPs want to grill him on the WE issue.

Scheer said Liberal MPs should also be asking themselves questions about supporting their boss going forward.

“If they allow him to continue, if they don’t demand he resign, then they are telling Canadians that they are comfortable with his corruption,” Scheer said.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Andrew ScheerCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

B.C. doctors encourage patients to reach out for telephone or online care during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
How was your virtual care experience through the Omineca Medical Clinic?

The clinic has an online survey for patients in the region

Blackwater Gold Mine. (File photo)
Artemis Gold plans phased approach for Blackwater Project

Artemis Gold will directly employ up to 580 people during the initial construction period

John Rustad poses for a photograph infront of St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof after he made the announcement of investing in Hospitals in the area. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Rustad announces St. John Hospital upgrade if BC Liberals are elected

The incumbent BC Liberals MLA for Nechako Lakes made the announcement on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Lesley Chaisson, Manager, Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce. (Submitted photo)
“We Are Open Campaign”: Vanderhoof Chamber promoting local businesses

Chamber embarks on multi-faceted approach to promote small business

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read