BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
Well, it finally happened.
After years of scandals and thanks to the hard work of Conservatives, the prime minister could no longer hide from answering our questions at committee on behalf of Canadians.
On July 30, the prime minister appeared before the finance committee to testify regarding his decision to hand half a billion dollars to his friends at WE, an organization that we now know paid his family members over a half million dollars in fees and expenses.
Unfortunately, the prime minister only testified for half the time the committee had requested, during which he tried to convince Canadians that he had no knowledge of how much money his family had received from WE.
I’m not convinced.
Another significant concern, that was raised during testimony from the prime minister’s chief of staff, is the fact that the contribution agreement for the Canada Student Service Grant between WE and the Liberal government was approved by Cabinet on May 22, signed on June 23 but was backdated to May 5 in order to cover costs incurred by WE. Why was WE incurring expenses on a program that they had no assurance of receiving … unless they did?
Three parliamentary committees are investigating this scandal. From these investigations Canadians have learned that the finance minister accepted $41,000 in illegal travel expenses from WE for two trips in 2017 – expenses he finally got around to re-paying on the same day he testified before the finance committee.
The ethics commissioner – who is already investigating the finance minister and the prime minister for their failure to recuse themselves from the cabinet decision to award the contract despite obvious family ties to the organization – has since confirmed that he has expanded his investigation to include these expenses.
Documents and testimony have also revealed that instead of receiving $19.5 million to administer a $912 million program, WE was to receive $43.5 million to administer a $500 million program and that it was only after Justin Trudeau became prime minister that his mother began being paid by WE for her speaking events.
While I was in Ottawa earlier in July to debate legislation introducing further measures related to COVID-19, I highlighted funding WE received in 2017 to help secure the appearances of Canadian talent at WE Day California that year. One of the speakers was Canadian Lilly Singh, who in 2015 called the prime minister her “dashing” prime minister on Facebook and proclaimed to have a hashtag man crush on Instagram. Using this as an example, I asked how many friends of the prime minister have been paid by taxpayers thanks to his government’s relationship with WE.
Unfortunately, I received a blatant non-answer but I will continue to pursue this important question.
As the former chair of the ethics committee that hosted the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy, I am also troubled by allegations that WE shares Canadians’ personal data with other organizations, as well as questions surrounding what data they collect. I will be closely monitoring these accusations and any new developments into the possible misuse of Canadians’ data.
It seems like every day shocking new details emerge in this scandal. I believe Canadians deserve to know … is this Liberal government corrupt or just incompetent?