NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh places the blame for WE Charity’s Canada exit squarely at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s feet.
His finger-pointing comes in the wake of WE Charity’s Wednesday announcement that it is selling off its assets, eliminating staff and winding down operations in Canada months after finding itself at the centre of a political scandal.
During an interview with Evan Solomon for CTV Question Period, airing Sunday, Solomon asked Singh where he places the blame for the charity’s “destruction” in Canada.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There’s no question about it,” Singh replied, not skipping a beat.
“There are many things that could have been done directly to help students, instead of creating a brand new program and then falling into all sorts of inappropriate activities.”
Back in May, the Trudeau government decided to grant WE Charity a now-cancelled contract to deliver the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) — a decision which came under fire shortly thereafter, when the charity’s ties to Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau’s families were revealed.
Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, spoke at approximately 28 WE Charity events and was paid $250,000 in speaking honorariums between 2016 and 2020. The prime minister’s brother, Alexandre Trudeau, also spoke at eight WE Charity events from 2017 to 2018 and was paid a total of approximately $32,000.
In addition, Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, received a “one-time speaking honorarium” of $1,400 for participating in a youth event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.
Meanwhile, WE Charity paid in part for two trips that members of Morneau’s family took in 2017 — one of which Morneau himself took part in.
Morneau apologized for the “error” and said it was his full intention to cover the full cost of the trips — though he only last month repaid the $41,000 the charity had initially covered related to the trips to Kenya and Ecuador. The former finance minister’s daughter Clare has also spoken at WE events, and his daughter Grace is currently employed by WE Charity.
Morneau has since resigned as both finance minister and as a member of Parliament, though he would not directly attribute the decision to the WE controversy. Both men have also apologized for not recusing themselves from the discussions.
As the controversy unravelled, WE Charity hemorrhaged sponsors and continued to suffer the financial hardship it was already facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the charity announced that it plans to sell off tens of millions of dollars’ worth of assets, including real estate in Toronto, in hopes of keeping its international humanitarian programs afloat.
Still, while the charity may be leaving the country, Singh says many unanswered questions remain here in Canada — especially relating to a huge pile of WE Charity documents the Liberals released as they announced Parliament’s prorogation, which halted all committee studies into the issue.
“There was a host of documents, a massive number of documents that were released and none of those documents were able to be put to witnesses after they were released,” Singh said.
He said that witnesses, including, potentially, both the prime minister and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger, should eventually be called before committee to face the new questions that arose as a result of these new documents.
SINGH CALLS TRUMP’S DOWNPLAYING OF VIRUS ‘APPALLING’
During the interview, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also weighed in on the recent revelations that U.S. President Donald Trump privately acknowledged the risk of COVID-19 — as he was publicly downplaying the virus’s danger.
In Bob Woodward’s upcoming book “Rage,” Trump is quoted saying the coronavirus was highly contagious and “deadly stuff” back in February — this, despite the fact that he was at the time publicly dismissing the virus as no worse than the flu.
“It is appalling that the president would acknowledge the danger and then downplay it,” Singh told Solomon.
“It is appalling, and it absolutely put lives at risk. It put people’s livelihoods at risk, and it resulted in people dying. This is completely irresponsible and something that is reprehensible and, rightly so, people are condemning it.”
The comments mark a shift from what some other Canadian voices have said about the revelations, as Canada’s Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman carefully tiptoed around the question during her interview with Solomon, also airing Sunday.
Rather than directly address Trump’s comments, Hillman pivoted to talking about Canada’s response to the virus.
“Canada is focused on our approach to COVID, and we’re focused on our expert advice, and we’re focused on the science that underpins our decision-making, and that’s what we know,” Hillman said.
With files from CTV News’ Graham Slaughter, The Associated Press
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