Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

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

Voters in Saanich North and the Islands, here lining up outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre on the first day of advanced voting. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
It’s Election Day in B.C.: Here’s what you need to know to vote

B.C.’s snap election has already broken records for advance voter turnout, mail-in ballots

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

The annual Rotary Christmas Parade won’t be going ahead this year as it did last year, rolling through downtown Chilliwack on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Rotary Christmas Celebration for children will replace downtown Chilliwack parade this year

Parade committee felt it ‘inappropriate’ to host Christmas parade with thousands in the stands

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

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)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read