Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says three things need to happen in the latest scandal surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: a police investigation, Trudeau testifying before the finance committee and a swift probe by the ethics commissioner.
Trudeau is facing criticism for not recusing himself from the government's decision to give WE Charity a contract to manage a $900-million student-aid program despite his family’s connections to the organization.
Trudeau has apologized for not recusing himself after weeks of defending the sole-sourced contract with the charity. He also apologized for the delay in the Canada Student Services Grant caused by WE's eventual decision to withdraw from administering the program.
McLeod said there are now hundreds of applicants in her riding alone waiting to be able to work.
The controversy comes amid revelations the organization paid the prime minister’s wife, brother and mother for appearing at different events over the years. Finance Minister Bill Morneau also apologized after it was revealed he also didn’t recuse himself despite two of his daughters having been involved with the organization.
Trudeau said his family's longtime involvement with WE should have kept him out of the discussions.
Opposition parties, however, have accused Trudeau of a pattern of trying to apologize for ethical lapses only after being caught.
McLeod said an RCMP investigation could determine whether Trudeau broke any laws.
“Whether it’s breach of trust or whether there is other things that went on behind the scenes,” McLeod said.
Trudeau said it was the public service that determined WE Charity was “the best and only” organization with the resources and network to administer the student volunteer grant. McLeod said Trudeau should explain to the committee why the public service made that recommendation.
“He’s left many unanswered questions,” she said.
The federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, is investigating the prime minister for a potential conflict of interest over the WE deal — the third such probe of Trudeau since he became prime minister in October 2015. The first two probes led to findings that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act, once for accepting two family trips hosted by the Aga Khan and once for trying to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould over the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Trudeau went on to win a minority government despite those transgressions.
Asked why anything different should be expected with the WE controversy, McLeod said she thinks as the breaches add up, people need to question the prime minister’s judgment and integrity.
“Once, you can accept that someone’s made a mistake, but what we are seeing is a pattern of very flawed judgement,” McLeod said, noting the issue is currently the dominating topic of concern from constituents in her email inbox.
Derek Cook, political science professor at Thompson Rivers University, said the WE controversy is a serious one and won’t go away anytime soon as opposition parties likely smell blood in the water.
He said the situation makes him wonder if Trudeau is getting the appropriate advice from his aides or whether he simply isn’t listening.
Senior advisor Sarah Goodman, chief of staff Katie Telford and others in the Prime Minister’s Office are there to ensure Trudeau doesn’t “step on landmines like this,” Cook said.
“What’s up here in the PMO? The PMO is supposed to take care of the prime minister and make sure he doesn’t make bad policy judgment that affects politics,” Cook said.
Telford, the Globe and Mail reported on Sunday, helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for WE Charity prior to the Liberals forming government.
Cook said Trudeau should also know better, but added he is not that seasoned a politician and relies on his advisors.
“Just a remarkably dumb thing to do,” Cook said. “He doesn’t seem to have the right political instincts to avoid such a pit hole.”
Nena Jocic-Andreejevic, chair of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Liberal Riding Association, declined to comment when contacted by KTW and directed inquires to the PMO.
—with files from the Canadian Press