Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during a sitting of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday July 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during a sitting of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday July 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Scheer calls Liberals’ choice to give WE contract ‘corruption or incompetence’

Both Trudeau and Morneau have said they should have recused themselves from the decision

The Opposition Conservatives accused the Liberal government of either corruption or ignorance Monday as they pressed for more answers around a decision to hand control over a major student grant program to an organization with longtime ties to the Trudeau family.

The House of Commons was sitting to pass a new bill to extend the wage subsidy program, send a special COVID-19 top-up to people with disabilities and to extend legal deadlines for court cases.

While those measures were expected to pass on Tuesday with the support of all opposition parties, the same collegial spirit did not extend to question period.

There, the dominant line of inquiry was around the Liberal government’s decision to award WE Charity the responsibility for a $900 million student job program.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mother, in particular, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for participating in WE events, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughter works for an arm of the WE organization.

The organization has handed the program back to the government. Both Trudeau and Morneau have said they should have recused themselves from the decision.

But the international development and youth empowerment group is now under scrutiny for its internal practices, adding further fuel to the opposition’s charges that the decision to grant the contract to WE was suspect.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pointed Monday to a report by Canadaland that red flags were raised in 2018 by auditors reviewing WE’s financials, as well as the fact that their board had undergone a major shakeup earlier in the year.

“Either the Liberals were aware of these issues and still approved the decision or they were incompetent,” he said.

“It’s either corruption or incompetence, which is it?”

It is neither, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland replied repeatedly, nearly reading verbatim from a sheet of paper with the Liberals’ current top-line talking point on the issue: that the idea of having WE run the Canada Student Services Grant was brought forward by the non-partisan public service.

“The way this unfolded was regrettable and the charity will not longer be administering the project,” she said.

READ MORE: Commons finance committee to begin probing WE Charity’s volunteering contract

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the government’s approach to WE raises questions about whether the program was ever about students at all.

“There were lots of ways to help students. This was not it,” he said.

“It was a billion-dollar bailout of close friends of the Liberal party and of the prime minister.”

The House of Commons had been recalled to pass the latest suite of COVID-19 measures.

The Liberals want to extend the wage subsidy program to December and have its criteria loosened so more businesses can reopen and employ workers.

The original program covered 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for eligible companies and non-profits. Companies had to show a 30 per cent drop in revenues.

The proposed changes will see the program pay on a sliding scale based on revenue drops due to the pandemic, with the hardest-hit businesses eligible for a 25 per cent increase to the previous maximum payment.

The disability payment measures in the bill would provide up to $600 in a one-time payment to some Canadians with disabilities in order to help with COVID-19 costs.

The Liberals had sought to pass that measure in a bill last month, but did not get unanimous consent due to the opposition concerns with other elements in that particular bill.

Originally, the payment was limited to those who received the disability tax credit, but the new bill lays out expanded criteria to include, among others, veterans who are currently receiving disability supports.

Singh said ensuring the disability benefit went to far more Canadians was a win for his party, and why the NDP will back the new bill.

“It’s still not enough and we will continue fighting,” he told reporters afterwards.

The Tories said they too support the disabilities measures, but the new wage subsidy plan is too convoluted and they want the government to make it simpler.

Still, they intend to back the bill, having won concessions of their own: to get two days of debate for it instead of one, and at the same time securing the ability for the Commons committee on Canada-China relations to sit, as well as the public safety committee.

Tuesday’s sitting also opens up an opportunity for the Conservatives to do something else they were hoping to achieve Monday, but couldn’t — press the prime minister himself.

Trudeau took the day off Monday, and the Tories suggested he was skipping out on questions about WE.

He is expected to attend Tuesday’s sitting, as well as for the special COVID-19 committee of MPs that is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

A lingering question is whether Trudeau will also appear at the House of Commons finance committee, where MPs want to grill him on the WE issue.

Scheer said Liberal MPs should also be asking themselves questions about supporting their boss going forward.

“If they allow him to continue, if they don’t demand he resign, then they are telling Canadians that they are comfortable with his corruption,” Scheer said.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Andrew ScheerCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

Elise Gouin (left), tech peer to Jocelyn McLean, in booth at CEED Centre Neighbourhood House. (Christian Cowley/Special to The News)
New seniors programs at Maple Ridge centre help isolated connect

The CEED Centre Society is offering two new seniors programs

Nobody will be turned away from the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministry in the next couple of days as temperatures are expected to dip below freezing. (THE NEWS/files)
Ridge Meadows Salvation Army calls for extreme weather response

Freezing temperatures forecast tonight and Friday, snow on the weekend

Madeline Merlo announced a new record deal with Broken Bow Record Music Group. (Facebook/Madeline Merlo)
Maple Ridge country artist signs record deal in Nashville

Madeline Merlo signed with Broken Bow Record Music Group

The Meadow Ridge Female Hockey Association has received a government grant to help weather the pandemic financially.
Ridge Meadows sports organizations given pandemic relief

Three associations approved for government grants

Tony Lam sent in this image of the community looking towards Golden Ears Mountain. (Tony Lam/Special to The News)
SHARE: Tranquil view of Golden Ears Mountain

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read