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

The candidates for the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding in the 2020 provincial election. Clockwise from top left: Rob Clarke, Graham Hughes, Evan Jolicoeur, Helen Poon and Josie Osborne. Osborne was declared the winner on Saturday night. (Photos submitted )
POLL QUESTION: Are you happy with the results of B.C.’s provincial election?

Josie Osborne of the BC NDP and Tofino’s now-former mayor won the Mid Island - Pacific Rim seat.

Ucluelet RCMP detachment. (Westerly file photo)
Driver facing charges after crashing into pedestrian at Ucluelet crosswalk

“It’s a reminder to slow down and pay attention,” said Sgt. Steve Mancini.

Josie Osborne and her campaign team watch the results roll in during B.C.’s provincial election on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of Josie Osborne)
Tofino expected to wait until New Year to elect new mayor after Josie Osborne wins provincial seat

Josie Osborne is the West Coast’s new MLA and that means Tofino needs a new mayor.

Dylan Hillis preparing collagen samples from ancient dog bones at the UBC musuem of Anthropology. Photo: Eric Guiry
Ancient ‘woolly dog’ ate mostly fish, new University of Victoria study finds

Study gives researchers better understanding of human-dog relationships on Tsehaht First Nation

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Most Read