Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

PM blasts Tories for push to keep WE probe alive, says government focused on COVID-19

The Conservatives have vowed to continue probing the arrangement with WE

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has blasted opposition parties for continuing their effort to dig into the WE Charity issue, and says his government is instead focused on helping Canadians through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The comments follow Conservative calls for a new anticorruption committee in the House of Commons to take over several parliamentary probes into a multimillion-dollar federal program for students that the government chose WE Charity to manage in the spring.

New Democrats have also proposed a special committee that would dive into the government’s various responses to COVID-19, including the now-defunct Canada Student Services Grant.

Both parties’ calls come as opposition parties have indicated they plan to resurrect the earlier probes at the Commons’ finance and ethics committees, among others, which were suspended for months when Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August.

The prime minister sidestepped questions Tuesday about whether he would support having one special committee continue the investigation into WE, suggesting instead that the issue is closed for the government and its priority is dealing with COVID-19.

“We are entirely focused on this second wave of COVID-19,” he said. “We will continue to stay focused on what we need to do to support Canadians facing a very difficult time right now.”

He went on to criticize the Conservatives, in particular, saying: “We have an awful lot of work to do and we’re going to continue doing it. … The opposition can focus on whatever it is they want. We will stay focused on Canadians.”

The prime minister noted he personally appeared before one Commons committee in July to answer questions about WE, and that the federal government released thousands of pages of documents about the grant program.

Partially redacted, the documents appeared to support the Liberals’ assertion that federal public servants recommended WE run the $500-million grant program. Yet they also suggested the bureaucrats were pushed toward WE by their political masters.

Following complaints from the opposition, the House of Commons’ non-partisan law clerk criticized the government for blacking out too much of the documents.

The Conservatives have vowed to continue probing the arrangement with WE as well as the Trudeau family’s links to the Toronto-based youth charity at the federal ethics and finance committees if the anticorruption committee is not created.

The New Democrats have similarly indicated that although they would prefer a single committee look at the WE deal along with other aspects of Ottawa’s COVID-19 response, such as efforts to secure enough personal protective equipment, they are prepared to use other committees.

Opposition parties accused Liberal MPs last week of filibustering to prevent the ethics committee from obtaining documents detailing the speaking fees that have been paid to members of Trudeau’s family over the years, including those from WE.

Trudeau on Tuesday appeared to dismiss suggestions his office was behind any attempt to stop the committee’s work, saying: “We will stay focused on Canadians while we let committees do their work independently.”

READ MORE: Conservatives want an anti-corruption committee to probe WE Charity controversy

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read