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

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Child care

Sixth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Seventy bags of items were dropped off at the school during the two days. Photo: John Boivin
Stanley Humphries graduates raise $3844 from bottle drive

Fifty students came together over two days to collect and sort the items

Teck
Teck incurs no tax penalty

Provincial Economic Stabilization (COVID-19) Act extended commercial tax deadline to Sept. 30

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: BC Parks

Fifth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)
COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan weaponizes senior care, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

Photo: Keith Thorpe
LETTER: Thanks for disc golf Oasis

Reader is enjoying the new course in Oasis

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

Most Read