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Commons finance committee to begin probing WE Charity's volunteering contract

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 12:51 pm EDT

The House of Commons in Ottawa on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

Mario Dion has already said he'll investigate Trudeau's role in the decision to have the WE organization


Commissioner will probe whether Morneau violated two sections of the conflict of interest law


Finance Minister Bill Morneau is now also facing an ethics investigation for not recusing himself from the federal government’s aborted deal with WE Charity to run a volunteering program.

Word from the federal ethics and conflict of interest commissioner came Thursday morning, hours before the first parliamentary probe of the agreement gets underway.

The House of Commons finance committee is set to hear from Youth Minister Bardish Chagger and some senior public servants as it probes how WE got a sole-sourced contract to administer the $900-million program.

Mario Dion has already said he’ll investigate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s role in the decision to have the WE organization, with which he and his family have a long history, run the program for students who can’t find summer work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Dion’s office says the commissioner will probe whether Morneau violated two sections of the conflict of interest law.

One of Morneau’s daughters is employed by WE Charity.

Last week, Morneau apologized for not recusing himself from the decision to award WE the student grant program contract.

Trudeau has admitted he should have recused himself from the decision to award the contract, given his family’s links to the group co-founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger.

The federal ethics watchdog has opened an investigation into Trudeau’s role in the awarding of the contract after requests from opposition parties.

The average time to complete an investigation is seven months.

Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett says there is still a clear need for a criminal investigation into the awarding of the contract despite the widened ethics probe.

WE gave up the contract amid the controversy two weeks ago.

The organization would have received about $19.5 million for administering the grant program, and possibly more depending on the number of students it signed up.

The government has since taken control of the program, but has been struggling with the details while the summer ticks by.

Federal officials have not said how many positions the program was supposed to create for students, how many positions had been approved, the number of applications received from students or how many positions have been filled.