Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid out the key questions his team will put to Justin Trudeau today when the prime minister appears before the Commons finance committee probing the WE Charity controversy.
Trudeau is set to answer questions before the committee starting at 3 p.m. ET. The panel is digging into why the government picked WE Charity to run a student volunteer program worth more than $900 million, and why the PM did not recuse himself from related cabinet talks given that his family members had been paid by the organization.
Trudeau is scheduled to testify for one hour. Opposition MPs have pushed to have him remain in the hot seat for three hours.
Watch: Andrew Scheer describes line of questioning for Trudeau’s appearance
Scheer said one hour is “non-sufficient” given the scope of the matter. He said he hopes the prime minister will deliver clear, straightforward answers but predicted Trudeau will try to run out the clock with rehearsed replies.
He said Liberal backbenchers should get the answers Canadians deserve on the WE Charity controversy instead of protecting their boss.
“Liberals on that committee, whether it’s the members or the chair of the committee, will they use their opportunities today to protect the prime minister, or will they allow Canadians to get the answers that they deserve?” he asked.
Scheer listed some of the questions the Conservatives will ask the PM:
- Why was the announcement on the student volunteer program made for more than $900 million, when the amount in the contribution agreement with WE was pegged at just more than $500 million?
- Who arrived at the conclusion that WE was the only group that could deliver the program, and who decided not to seek proposals from other organizations?
- What evaluations were done of WE Charity? What did the prime minister know about the organization, and were red flags raised?
WE Charity has been under public scrutiny since the controversy erupted, with news headlines about board member resignations, allegations of staff mistreatment and mass layoffs due to the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic.
“If he knew about some of these things and he allowed it to proceed, then he will be admitting that he played a role in this corruption. And if he didn’t know, that means that nobody did due diligence on a $900 million program,” Scheer said.
New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long, who has broken party ranks in past, issued a public letter Wednesday saying he is “deeply disappointed” by the government’s decision-making process and its failure to recognize a potential conflict of interest.
He said that failure has undermined the good work the government has done to help Canadians through the pandemic and urged ministers to be “fully transparent” regarding the decision-making process.
“To me, it is clear that changes must be made within both the Prime Minister’s Office and throughout our government in order to ensure that we prevent such a systemic failure from occurring again,” he said.
Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford is also set to testify at the finance committee this afternoon. She was slated initially to appear for one hour, but the itinerary was amended this afternoon to extend her time before the committee to two hours.