Widening charity scandal engulfs Canada's Justin Trudeau

Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa Monday

More than three hours of testimony at the House of Commons finance committee's probe into the WE Charity was nothing more than "political theatre", says a local political analyst.

He has been asked about what due diligence he requested, which made him confident he didn't need to recuse himself from the awarding of the contract to the WE Charity, to help summer students, many unable to work because of COVID-19.

On the same day, Craig Kielburger, praising Trudeau for what he said was his commitment to youth issues, described Trudeau as his friend. "I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation".

They want more detailed answers about why WE Charity began working on and incurring expenses for the program on May 5, when it had not yet been approved by cabinet.

During yesterday's testimony, Trudeau said he did not know Morneau had accepted the $41,366 in vacation expenses, and only knew that one of Morneau's daughters had connections with the charity, not both.

"I wanted to make sure all the Is were dotted and all the Ts were crossed", he said.

WE Charity had previously paid the prime minister's mother and brother to speak at events between 2017-18 and Trudeau and his wife were involved with the organisation. They said they wanted to get the program going quickly, knowing they could lose money if cabinet said no. I chose to push back instead.

In the case of the 2016 visit, Trudeau suggested he saw no conflict of interest in the visit to the private island of a family friend, omitting that the Aga Khan Foundation is registered as a lobbyist to the Canadian government and that records indicate the foundation was in receipt of some $47 million from the government in 2016. "Not one of them said that the prime minister pulled the WE proposal from the May 8 cabinet meeting and sent it back for further scrutiny", Scheer said in a statement Friday.

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Canada's ethics commissioner launched the investigation after WE Charity disclosed that it had paid Trudeau's mother and brother for speaking appearances.

"You consciously recognized in your May Cabinet meeting that such a conflict might exist ... that you were consciously aware that there was an inappropriate link to your family that would put you in a conflict".

The Prime Minister will have the chance for some opening remarks, and during that time, Macfarlane is going to look for whether Trudeau will be combative, or apologetic.

Trudeau's chief of staff Katie Telford testified that the civil servants presented it as a "binary choice" - either they moved ahead with WE Charity to deliver the program or they wouldn't go ahead with it at all.

"Policy staff between different (minister's) offices was ensuring certain objectives were being met through the contribution agreement, but the negotiation absolutely was not happening through political staff", Telford said.

Trudeau also regrets how the situation has affected the charity and youth.

Those included the sudden resignation of the head of WE's Canadian board of directors in March following the lay off of over 400 employees. She said she was shuffled out of her role as attorney general on January 14, 2019, because she refused to cut SNC-Lavalin a deal to avoid a criminal trial.

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