Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied on Thursday that a charity chosen by the government to manage a large student grant program received preferential treatment, although it had ties to his family.
The escalating scandal over a multimillion-dollar program given WE Charity Canada has hurt Trudeau in the polls, with his Liberal Party slipping to a four-point lead over the opposition Conservatives, an Abacus Data poll showed.
The popularity of the Liberal-led government had grown amid Canada’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“WE Charity did not receive any preferential treatment, neither from me nor from anyone else,”; Trudeau said in a space speech. “The public service recommended WE Charity. I did nothing to influence that recommendation.”
“How much?” “” Only the dollar figure. “: MP Pierre Poilievre constantly asks Prime Minister Trudeau how much money his family has paid from WE.
Live coverage continues here: https://t.co/9A0P8TVYlx pic.twitter.com/bJuaSGhC3g
– CTV News (@CTVNews) July 30, 2020
This is in line with the testimony from the civil service to the same committee. In the midst of frantic efforts to push door-to-door programs to help Canadians during the pandemic, the civil service recommended WE Charity as the only organization able to deliver the $ 500 million ($ 372 million) program quickly.
The government had previously said the program would provide up to $ 900 million Canadian dollars ($ 670 million) to students.
The Prime Minister has already publicly apologized for participating in the cabinet decision to elect WE Charity to administer the grants program because it created a perception of conflict of interest. The charity withdrew immediately after the program.
The testimony of a Canadian prime minister before a parliamentary committee is very unusual. This last happened in 2006, when then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared before one to talk about Senate reform.
“We could have done better,” Trudeau chief of staff Katie Telford told the same committee after the prime minister spoke. She said another layer of scrutiny could have been added to dispel any perceptions of conflict of interest.
The “Partnerships” and “Execute Files” files were retrieved from We Headquarters on Wednesday. Not sure where they headed? Ask yourself if any of the information in these boxes will come out today when @JustinTrudeau is on his feet? @craigkielburger can you tell us what it was about? pic.twitter.com/3N9ZRUqg9L
– Joe Warmington (@joe_warmington) July 30, 2020
Trudeau’s testimony comes after he was investigated for possible breach of conflict of interest. This is the third ethics investigation he has faced in three years.
The ethics commissioner in Canada launched the investigation after WE Charity revealed that she had paid Trudeau’s mother and brother to speak at the appearances.
Both the Prime Minister and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, have regularly attended WE charity events.
Reuters news agency