LILLEY: The charity scandal that rocked the Trudeau government and how it happened

Toronto Sun

It’s a scandal like none I’ve seen that has rocked the Trudeau government and spawned at least five investigations into the government actions.

Even CNN has speculated that this could bring down the Trudeau Liberals.

I’m not sure about that but it is a story that keeps on revealing more.

What started out as an attempt to help young people financially by introducing the Canada Student Service Grant has morphed into something else. The allegation is that this contract was just too cozy, that Justin Trudeau and others in his government were simply too close to the people getting a $912 million sole-sourced contract.

Along with giving the government headaches, this saga has shaken one of the biggest charities in the country.

Keeping track of it all can be difficult so let me try and help summarize the main points as well as how and when it all went down.

TIMELINE

It’s hard to know exactly when some parts of this story happened but thanks to testimony at the House of Commons Finance Committee on Thursday, we now know this saga didn’t begin with the government picking WE Charity out of thin air at the end of June. In fact, what we found out is that WE was pitching the government on running a program for youth in mid-April before the government announced its own intentions.

This timeline is the best reconstruction of how events unfolded.

WE circulated a proposal to several government ministers, including Ministers Bardish Chagger and Mary Ng, in mid-April.

On April 19, at a meeting with officials from finance and employment and social development, an unnamed finance official suggests to Rachel Wernick, senior assistant deputy minister at employment, that she contact WE.

Wernick calls Craig Kielburger on April 19, he tells her that he already has a proposal submitted to government but hears out what the government is now considering.

April 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the government will be moving ahead with plans to help young people economically during COVID-19 and says details will follow later.

April 22, on the day Trudeau is announcing his new plans to help youth, Kielburger submits a new proposal to the government, this time via email to Wernick.

On April 24, Volunteer Canada, a national coordinating body for the volunteer sector, reached out to the government to offer support in building a volunteer program aimed at youth.

Paula Speevak, president and CEO of Volunteer Canada testified at committee that between April 27 and May 19, her organization reached out to Minister Chagger’s office several times to offer help and to get details.

She said: “ … little information was available while program approval was pending.”

WE Charity contacts Volunteer Canada on May 20 to offer a potential role in the program for Volunteer Canada.

Meetings were held between May 25 and June 5 between the two groups. On June 5, Volunteer Canada told WE that they would not be participating citing several problems with the program including paying people to volunteer and paying below minimum wage.

On June 25, Trudeau announces the student grant program during his daily update. Minister Chagger later reveals WE is the group that will be running the program.

The Trudeau government dismisses questions of conflict of interest over the awarding of the contract. Both the PMO and WE Charity tell several media outlets that the Prime Minister’s family members were not paid to be participants at WE Day events.

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Source: Brian Lilley | Toronto Sun

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