The prime minister Justin Trudeau
21 July, 2020 19: 15
“Nothing indicates” that Trudeau had discussed the contract with UNITED, according to the clerk
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — “Nothing indicates” that the prime minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders of the UNITED front that this charity does not obtain the contract, without tender, to administer the new scholarship program for volunteer activities during the pandemic, argued Tuesday, the most senior official of the government.
Ian Shugart, clerk of the privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet, testified Tuesday morning before the finance Committee of the House of commons, which is investigating the contract concluded between the liberal government and the organization (U.S.) (“WE Charity”, in English), with which the prime minister enjoyed a close relationship. His mother and brother have also been paid to make public appearances during activities of STATES.
Mr. Shugart was interviewed about the officials responsible for the awarding of this contract before the firm decides to entrust to US the management of the new programme of $ 900 million. The members of the committee wanted to especially know if someone in high public office, had raised concerns about the finances of the STATES, as opposition mps describe as a concern.
The highest official of the government told the committee that the prime minister had been informed of the development of the program, but he argued that Mr. Trudeau had had no contact with the body. “There is absolutely no evidence, no suggestion in anything that I have reviewed that would suggest that the prime minister has had any interaction with STATES on this program,” assured Mr. Shugart. “Absolutely no.”
The contract, now cancelled, would have been able to relate to the non-profit organization up to $43.5 million.
The opposition wants Mr. Trudeau to appear before the same committee, but during the question period in the Commons on Tuesday, he did not want to say whether he would accept the invitation.
The prime minister and some of his ministers were also bombarded with questions on the case Tuesday afternoon in the Commons. The leader of the conservatives, Andrew Scheer, accused Mr. Trudeau of using the pandemic as an excuse for an operation of corruption “gross and yucky”.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the liberals have sought to give wide powers to spend, without having to be accountable to the Parliament. They have fallen on it since, but Mr. Scheer has argued Tuesday that Canadians now know why. “They wanted to stop and take the time to reward their friends: this is the essence of this liberal Party, led by the liberal prime minister. I didn’t even have a question: it is simply disgusting,” dropped Mr. Scheer.
In response to direct questions on STATES, Mr. Trudeau reiterated that he regretted not to be removed from the deliberations. But he repeated that the Firm had followed the recommendations of the senior officials non-partisan, for which “the organization STATES was the only one to be able to offer this summer a program as ambitious”.
“I would have had to recuse myself because of the relationship with (…) my family, but this does not detract from the fact that the public service has recommended this body,” he repeated.
A chronology of the case
The testimony of Mr. Shugart has also provided more details on the chronology of the whole affair.
The body STATES had sent an unsolicited proposal to the minister of Youth, Bardish Chagger, and to the minister of Small Business, Mary Ng, at the beginning of the month of April, for a program to help young people to become entrepreneurs, which was expected to cost between 6 and $14 million.
However, the federal government was already thinking of ways to help students who are unable to work this summer due to the pandemic, with the intent to announce something by mid-may. The possible participation of STATES has been raised in conversations between the ministry of Finance and of Employment and social Development, which oversees programs for students.
Rachel Wernick, a senior official of Employment and Development, called the co-founder of UNITED Craig Kielburger, on 19 April, the date on which it would have learned of the existence of the original proposal. According to Mr. Shugart, this is also where the Office of the privy Council has been made aware.
Three days later, on 22 April, Mr Trudeau has announced a package of financial aid to students, $ 9 billion, which already mentioned the outline of a scholarship program for student volunteers. On the same day, Craig Kielburger was sent to Ms. Wernick an updated proposal, which reflected the announcement of Mr. Trudeau. The decision was finally taken to entrust the program to STATES.
Mr. Shugart has assured on Tuesday that the Office of the privy Council had raised the possibility of a call for tenders and of the ministers asked whether STATES could assume this mandate. According to him, all of them have then concluded that this solution was the right one.
In the wake of the controversy, the organization has handed over the reins of the program to government officials, at the beginning of July. Mr. Shugart said on Tuesday that the program would still be deployed, but that it would provide much less support to the students.
The minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, must also appear before the committee Wednesday afternoon.
Trudeau “should be packed”
The leader of the Bloc québécois, Yves-François Blanchet has not yet been asked Tuesday to Mr. Trudeau to withdraw “temporarily”, the time that all the light is made.
“I reiterate the suggestion of the Bloc québécois, so that the canadian government continues to function well: that the first minister Trudeau cup, momentarily, and leaves the reins of the State to the deputy prime minister (asked by chrystia Freeland), of which this is the case, one of the tasks”, he repeated Tuesday morning.
The leader of the New democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, has noted that “the scandal of calling into question the confidence in the government”, which the Canadians have much need in this time of economic uncertainty and health. Mr. Singh asked Mr. Trudeau to waive the confidentiality of the deliberations in Cabinet and file all of the documents related to this contract.