Controversy STATES: the conservatives are asking the commissioner Dion to expand its investigation
The canadian Press
OTTAWA — The conservatives have asked the ethics commissioner to expand its investigation into Justin Trudeau, on the eve of the appearance of the prime minister before the finance Committee on the contract awarded to STATES to administer the grant program for student volunteers.
The ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, is already investigating on Mr. Trudeau and the minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, to a possible violation of the Law on conflict of interest, because the two elected officials have not challenged during the discussions in the cabinet on the contract. The two men have since apologized for not having done so.
The testimony of the co-founders of the united STATES to the Committee on finance, House of commons, on Tuesday, has also helped to learn that the charity had paid any more than $ 500,000 in fees and other per diems to the mother of Mr. Trudeau, his wife and his brother.
At a press conference Wednesday, the conservatives have argued that this new information required a supplemental survey to the commissioner Dion, to determine if these payments were in breach of the rules on conflict of interest of elected officials.
The act prohibits ministers, or members of their family, to accept the free travel, to avoid any appearance of influence peddling.
The canadian Stock market for the volunteering student is aimed at students and graduates who could not find work this summer because of the pandemic. The program is to pay 1000 $ to the students and graduates eligible for each 100 hours of volunteer work completed, up to a maximum of $ 5,000. The government has not yet deployed, nearly a month after the withdrawal of the united STATES, in the midst of controversy.
“The truth !”
“We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, has hammered on Wednesday in Ottawa the spokesman for the conservative in matters of finance, Pierre Poilievre. He warned that the opposition would seek to further question Mr. Trudeau in the fall if it did not provide detailed responses.
The leader of the New democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, said his side that he wanted Mr. Trudeau explains why the liberals had decided to entrust the program to the charity, while there are other ways, potentially more easy to help students in financial difficulty — for example a rise in student grants or budgets in the Canada summer Jobs program.
“It was never about helping students,” said Mr. Singh on Wednesday in Burnaby, British Columbia. “It was, in fact, help the little friends of the liberal government and prime minister Trudeau — and it is deeply disturbing.”
The leader of the Bloc québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, has seemed to regard him back on his intention to file a no-confidence motion as early as this fall. “We don’t want the immediate drop of the government, he said. We want to first get out of the crisis COVID-19.”
“Now, if the people who administer the crisis (health) at federal government — primarily the prime minister and the minister of Finance — are unable to do so, it is necessary to consider their replacement, willingly or unwillingly.”
The ethics committee of the House of commons inquiry also on this case, the angle measures in place to prevent conflicts of interest in the spending policies of the federal government”. The members of the opposition, who are more numerous than the liberals on this committee, have also used their majority to ask Mr. Trudeau to testify.
Moreover, the conservatives have proposed on Wednesday to ask all the ministers if any of their relatives had ties with US, but this proposal was defeated in the vote. Charlie Angus, the new democrat member of parliament in this committee, has warned against any investigation against the deputies or of the ministers in the absence of a precise reason : “The fishing parties, in my opinion, does not fall within the scope of the committee.”
Contract to WE Charity : the ethics committee of the Commons meets
The ethics committee of the House of commons meets on Wednesday afternoon to advance its own investigation into the contract awarded without a call for proposals by the liberal government to the charity WE Charity (UNITED) to administer the canadian stock Exchange for the volunteer student.
The members of this committee want to get documents on the fees the charity has paid to members of the family of the prime minister Justin Trudeau. For their participation at public events and of STATES, the mother of Mr. Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau, and the brother of the prime minister, Alexandre, might as well hit both of them about $ 300,000 — plus per diem.
The members of the opposition, who are more numerous than the liberals on this committee, have also used their majority to ask Mr. Trudeau to testify.
The prime minister is scheduled to testify Thursday before the standing finance Committee of the House of commons. The members of this committee want to know what led the federal cabinet to choose US to administer this scholarship program for volunteering, aimed at students and graduates who could not find work this summer because of the pandemic. Before the controversy, STATES has finally withdrawn from the contract on July 2, and the program is now administered by the public service.
Conflict of interest ?
The standing Committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, for its part, wishes to ” examine the measures in place to prevent conflicts of interest in the spending policies of the federal government “. Mps needed to hear Philippe Dufresne, clerk and parliamentary counsel of the House of commons.
The liberals have provided for a budget of 912 million for the Scholarship program, canadian volunteer student, but they have only agreed to pay a maximum of 543 million to STATES with almost 500 million for scholarships and about 43.5 million to the agency for its costs.
However, the co-founders of the united STATES, the brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, have said on Tuesday to the finance Committee that they expected that the program costs up to $ 300 million. In the testimony of four hours, they have ensured that their agency was selected for its experience in the environment and not because of close ties with the Trudeau government.
The all-expenses paid trips for donors would be unusual
In the wake of revelations that the minister of Finance, Bill Morneau and his family had made trips abroad sponsored by the united STATES, experts in the charitable sector say that pay for the travel expenses of a donor is a practice unusual.
The federal minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, said to members of the finance Committee of the House of commons, last week, that he had just reimburse STATES more than $ 41,000 for travel that he and his family had made in 2017 in Kenya and Ecuador. The minister was then invited to see first-hand the humanitarian projects of the charity.
UNITED claims to have had the intention at the outset to cover the costs of these trips. The agency believes that this practice of covering the expenses of potential donors is nothing extraordinary in the international development sector.
“From time to time, free of charge, STATES invites potential donors to see the impact of their international projects,” said united STATES for The Canadian Press in a press release.
“Many charities and international humanitarian work the same way,” said UNITED in a statement sent to journalists last week.
But Elizabeth Gomery, associated founder of Philantropica, a firm that provides strategic consultations in the field of fundraising, says it paid for by wealthy donors travelling abroad is not a common practice.
“Usually – and I’ve never seen another case as that case STATES, the donor pays its own costs”, she said.
“I can truly say that it is extremely rare to see a case where a charity is paying the bill for a wealthy person visit the work it does abroad.”
Ann Rosenfield, the body-board “Charitably Speaking”, which has more than 20 years of experience in the field, is of the same opinion.
“The charities are very concerned in the management of the donors’ money, and we tend to ask people who are generous with us to cover their own expenses so that we can be very, very careful about the dollars we spend.”
Ms. Rosenfield and Elizabeth Gomery, associated founder of the society of philanthropic counsel, say the charities, which allow donors to participate in trips abroad usually expect that they pay their own expenses.
STATES argues that the trips offered to sponsors and potential donors to observe first-hand the work of the organization enabled him to raise millions of dollars.
The co-founder of the united STATES, Craig Kielburger, said on Tuesday that the wife of Bill Morneau, Nancy McCain, was already in Kenya in July 2017 to see the work of other charities that she sponsored when STATES invited her and her daughter to stay in accommodation belonging to the organization.
“In our mind, it was an invitation to a canadian family very much in view, Ms. McCain, who is very philanthropic,” said Craig Kielburger.
Six months later, STATES again welcomed Bill Morneau and his family in Ecuador, where the organization paid for the accommodation, food and “the supervision of the building work, so they built schools and worked on a volunteer project,” said Craig Kielburger to the finance committee of the Commons, Tuesday.
Bill Morneau said he had always planned to cover personally all of the figures and that he had previously reimbursed the cost of your flight and hotel from 52 000 $ for excursions. However, last week, he said that he had been surprised to discover, by examining the received prior to his testimony, that the additional costs of 41 366 $ had been covered by the charity.
He immediately refunded and apologized for the error.
STATES stated that the family Morneau stayed in accommodation belonging to the organization because their programs are located in rural areas with “little or no accommodation options, all alternatives”.
But Elizabeth Gomery indicated that it found this problematic. The accommodation of STATES belong to ME to WE, a for-profit entity that is an organization s?ur STATES.
“The lodges are very expensive”, she said, noting that they operate on a basis that is lucrative. “It is a bit messy, to be honest.”
Questioned whether free hotel stays for donors in the accommodations ME to WE mean that U.S. purchases of services to its for profit social enterprise, STATES responded that ME to WE “has contributed to millions of dollars for STATES that UNITED has bought services such as accommodation, travel.”
In its statement, the organization said the goals of ME to WE. They include the hosting of donors visit charity projects or projects funded by grants for young people. “This has resulted in tens of millions of dollars directly given by donors to UNITED”.
STATES also pointed out that 100% of the profits from ME to WE “have been given to STATES to be reinvested to expand the social mission”.
There is an ongoing debate in the circles of humanitarian agencies to find out if these types of trips are a form of “tourism poverty” to wealthy North Americans.
Ann Rosenfield said that these visits should only take place when the people visited are full-fledged partners of the company.
In the end, it depends on situations and individual conditions and the way in which a visit to a donor could have an impact on the people on the ground, she added.
“If it is in the interest (of) the people present at this place that someone visits them, it is a very important consideration.”
Elizabeth Gomery is of the opinion that the international trips for donors are an important tool for some organisations in order to enable sponsors to see first-hand the impact of their donations, provided that this is done appropriately and with the required sensitivity.
She believes that the true ethical questions revolve around the reason for which UNITED has paid the note by the rich minister of Finance and his / her family abroad.
“I would not be comfortable with that if I was a donor for US. I would be pretty angry about it, to be honest.”
Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau are the subject of an investigation by the federal commissioner, the ethics to not be recused during discussions on the selection of STATES for the management of a stock 912 million for the volunteer student.
Before the controversy, STATES has finally withdrawn from the contract on July 2, and the program is now administered by the public service.
Earlier this month, UNITED announced that it has launched a formal review of its organization to streamline its offerings and programs to bring about changes in governance and structural.
“The goal is to streamline the organizational structure of STATES, including an assessment of the future of ME to WE, in order to arrive at a clearer separation of social enterprise entities as “charitable.