Corbella: Trudeau’s WE scandal testimony leaves him battered and bruised

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The committee heard Tuesday from the Kielburgers that the Trudeau family received even more money from WE than previously revealed. Margaret Trudeau had $167,944 of expenses paid for her 28 events. Alexandre Trudeau submitted $19,576 in expenses for eight events, and the PM’s wife had $25,326 in expenses paid to her for seven WE events, or an average of $3,618 per event.

In total, the Trudeau family received more than $508,000 in speaking fees and expenses paid to them by the WE Charity or one of its more than one dozen Canadian affiliated entities, which includes the ME to WE social enterprise — the for-profit arm of the Kielburgers’ initiatives.

Marc, left, and Craig Kielburger appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Trudeau admitted that his government has given millions of dollars to WE. Had this program gone ahead — which is a $543.5-million program, not $912 million as the PM initially announced — WE Charity would have received up to $43.5 million in administration fees.

So millions of taxpayer dollars goes from the government into this charity, and then more than $500,000 goes from the charity to the PM’s family in speaking fees and lavish travel expenses.

Morneau’s daughter, Grace, is a contract employee with WE and his family received a free $41,000 vacation from WE in 2017 to Ecuador, which Morneau only paid back when he appeared before the committee last week.

It all stinks.

Trudeau says he wanted to rush this program to help students. But the government had already rolled out the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit and it has the long-standing Canada Summer Jobs Grant program that could have been expanded and enriched to ensure more businesses and charities could hire students and pay them at least minimum wage, rather than the $10 per hour under the CSSG. When Trudeau says the civil service had given him only a “binary choice” of choosing WE to administer the program or not run the program at all, that is incorrect. Other charities say they could have done this and better options, as already mentioned, exist. This debacle creates the appearance that the CSSG was dreamed up to funnel money into a struggling charity that supports his family and those of other prominent Liberals.

The prime minister is to be commended for appearing before this committee — something he was not required to do. But, politically, it was unwise of him, and has only left us with even more questions that need answering.

Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.


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