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

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

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

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Marissa Cunnington. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
NARCHC year end horse show photos and results

The Northern Alberta Reined Cow Horse Club (NARCHC) held its futurity, derby… Continue reading

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Most Read