Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

Justin Trudeau faces ethics questions after charity conflict of interest

Canadian PM and finance minister criticised for close ties to WE Charity, which recently won government contract

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Minister of Finance Bill Morneau during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. AFP
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Minister of Finance Bill Morneau during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. AFP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is due to face the Parliament's finance committee after conflict of interest accusations involving coronavirus funds.

Mr Trudeau could be subjected to penalties over his ties with the WE Charity, which won a contract to run a C$900 million (Dh2.47 billion/$674.6m) programme to help students find work during the coronavirus outbreak.

Although a time and date has not been set for Mr Trudeau’s appearance, it is likely to be this week.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau is also involved in the scandal and apologised for accepting travel expenses paid for by the charity. Last week he said he had repaid C$41,366.

Mr Trudeau's brother and mother had already received speaking fees from WE, which also employs one of Mr Morneau's daughters.

The affair is hurting the popularity of the ruling Liberals, leading some to call for Mr Trudeau’s resignation.

Mr Morneau said he had written a cheque last week to cover the costs of expenses WE paid during private trips he and his family took to Kenya and Ecuador.

He said the matter was an oversight and insisting he had always intended to pay the full cost.

"Not doing so, even unknowingly, is not appropriate. I want to apologise for this error," Mr Morneau told the committee.

The main opposition Conservative Party expressed disbelief and called on him to resign.

"Do you expect us to believe that it is a mere coincidence that you repaid over C$41,000 on the same day you were expected to testify under oath about it?" Conservative legislator Pierre Poilievre asked.

Mr Trudeau and Mr Morneau have apologised for not recusing themselves during Cabinet discussions on the choice of WE to receive coronavirus funds.

The charity later walked away from the contract.

Mr Morneau, 57, is a multimillionaire who has been finance minister since November 2015.

He was fined by the ethics commissioner in 2017 for not declaring a French villa he owns.

The WE Charity, formerly known as Free the Children, was founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger 25 years ago.

The latest scandal adds to the list of ethical issues Mr Trudeau has faced during his time in office, including riding in a helicopter belonging to the Aga Khan, whose organisation has benefited from millions of dollars in Canadian federal grants.

His government was also found to have pressured the country’s attorney general not to prosecute Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin for bribery.

Mr Trudeau has been criticised for wearing blackface on three different occasions, for which he later apologised.

“I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry,” he told Time Magazine after the photos emerged.

Updated: July 28, 2020 04:07 AM

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