Push to Revive WE Charity Investigations Held Up in Parliamentary Committees

October 9, 2020 Updated: October 9, 2020

The Opposition Conservatives are pushing forward in their efforts to revive investigations into the WE Charity student grant controversy, but are facing pushback from Liberals in two of the committees looking into the matter.

At the Commons ethics committee on Oct. 8, Liberals delayed a vote to release documents from the speaking organization WE Charity used to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family. The ethics committee had originally passed a motion in July demanding to see details of all fees WE paid to the Trudeau family, but the prime minister suspended Parliament the day before the records were to be tabled.

At the federal finance committee, the Conservatives also launched a motion on Oct. 8 to revive its study of the WE grant. However, Liberal committee Chair Wayne Easter suspended the meeting to ensure the motion was in order procedurally.

The Conservatives are pushing for the revival of the parliamentary committee investigations, which were abandoned in August after the Liberal minority government’s prorogation of Parliament for five weeks.

Earlier this week, the Liberals and NDP blocked an effort by the Conservatives to get the WE Charity affair probed ahead of a study into why Parliament was prorogued. The government must provide a report within 20 sitting days to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee explaining why the August prorogation was necessary. The Tories had sought to get ahead of it by calling witnesses and requesting documents related to the government’s choice to have WE Charity run the multimillion-dollar student program. 

Trudeau has apologized for not recusing himself from the decision to grant WE Charity the contract to administer the student grant, which he has maintained was made by bureaucrats not under political pressure.

The Conservatives’ have accused the Liberals of using prorogation to avoid scrutiny by shutting down several probes into the troubled plan to have WE run the COVID-19-prompted student grant program, after it was revealed the organization had long-standing ties to Trudeau and then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau and their family members.

The prime minister has been a featured speaker at six WE Day rallies while his wife, mother, and brother have all received money from the organization. 

Trudeau has maintained that the move to suspend Parliament was to give the government time to focus on the economic recovery plan amid the pandemic, and to have a confidence vote on it by way of the throne speech.

With files from The Canadian Press