A translator works as WE Charity founders Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents that the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A translator works as WE Charity founders Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents that the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

WE calls latest Conservative request for documents ‘politics’

Tories’ request is in a letter sent from Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre and ethics critic Michael Barrett

The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament.

But WE is pushing back against the Tories’ request, with the organization’s legal counsel saying it amounts to “politics, not proper process.”

The Tories’ request is contained in a letter sent Sunday from Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre and ethics critic Michael Barrett to Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers who co-founded WE more than 20 years ago.

It represents the official Opposition’s latest effort to continue digging into the decision to have WE run a multimillion-dollar student-volunteer program, after Trudeau temporarily shuttered several Commons committee investigations by proroguing Parliament on Aug. 18.

In their letter, Poilievre and Barrett note the Kielburgers and other WE officials committed to provide members of Parliament with answers to several questions they were unable to answer while appearing before the finance committee.

Those unanswered questions are outlined in two annexes prepared by the Library of Parliament and attached to the Conservatives’ letter, and include details on WE’s discussions with the Liberal government about the Canada Student Services Grant.

The finance committee also asked the charity to provide more information about two trips that WE hosted for then-finance minister Bill Morneau and his family to Kenya and Ecuador.

“That additional information had not been provided to the committee at the time that Justin Trudeau shut down Parliament,” Poilievre and Barrett wrote to the Kielburgers.

“However, given you both expressed your desire to provide members of Parliament with the information required, we urge you to not wait for the House of Commons to return in September.”

The Kielburgers spoke to the finance committee via videolink on July 28, at which time they insisted WE was not chosen to run the Canada Student Services Grant because of the organization’s ties to Trudeau and other members of the Liberal government.

READ MORE: Tories ask speaking agency to release records on WE’s payments to Trudeau family

WE executives Dalal Al Waheidi, Scott Baker and Sofia Marquez appeared two weeks later, when they were grilled over dozens of communications with public office holders despite not being registered with the federal lobbyist registry.

In a statement to the Canadian Press on Sunday, a lawyer for WE appeared to reject the Conservatives’ request.

“Mr. Poilievre’s letter amounts to politics, not proper process,” William McDowell said. “The committees ceased to exist with the prorogation of Parliament. There is no committee to receive the documents.”

McDowell added that ”when there is a new committee, our clients will be pleased to communicate with the clerk of the new committee regarding the production of documents.”

All committee work officially ends when Parliament is prorogued.

But the committees can reconstitute themselves and continue their studies when it resumes. That is expected to happen after the throne speech on Sept. 23 as opposition parties hold a majority of seats on all committees.

To that end, Poilievre and Barrett warned the finance committee would “aggressively” follow up on any outstanding information after Parliament resumes, “but we are certain that in the spirit of co-operation you will want to proactively respond now.”

The Canada Student Services Grant was announced by Trudeau on June 25 and billed as a way for students to earn money towards their post-secondary education by volunteering for charities and non-profit groups fighting COVID-19.

But the government’s decision to have WE run the program, which had an announced budget of $912 million, drew immediate allegations of a conflict of interest due to Trudeau’s ties to the charity, including appearances at several of its WE Day rallies.

WE eventually backed out of the agreement, citing political controversy, and the grant program has since been abandoned. The ethics commissioner is now investigating Trudeau, whose family was paid to appear at several WE events, as well as Morneau.

Barrett wrote last week to Speaker’s Spotlight, the agency through which WE paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother for those events, to hand over all documents about the arrangements.

Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet’s discussions about the agreement to have WE run the grant program, but insisted it was public servants who recommended the organization.

Thousands of government documents released by Trudeau when he prorogued Parliament appear to back up that assertion, but also suggest bureaucrats may have been encouraged to work with WE by their political masters.

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.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Residents and supporters of Tofino’s Crab Apple Campground gathered at the Village Green on April 13 to draw attention to their concerns over losing their homes. The campground’s temporary use permit, which allows it to offer sites to Tofino residents, expires in October. The town’s council rejected an application that same day that would have permitted the campground to operate as a tourist commercial accommodation. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Crab Apple residents fear losing their homes as campground’s permit running out in Tofino

Council rejects application to allow campground to operate as tourist accommodation.

The entrance to the Lodge Property on Reef Point Road in Ucluelet. (Nora O’Malley photo)
The entrance to the Lodge Property on Reef Point Road in Ucluelet. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet council approves the Lodge Property application

The decision changes the land use designation from Residential to Tourist Commercial

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations celebrate legal victory in fishing dispute

Ha’oom Fisheries Society and T’aaq-wiihak Fisheries announce “major legal victory”

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury touted the new ban as “definitely terrific news”

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read