A translator works as WE Charity founders Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents that the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A translator works as WE Charity founders Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents that the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

WE calls latest Conservative request for documents ‘politics’

Tories’ request is in a letter sent from Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre and ethics critic Michael Barrett

The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament.

But WE is pushing back against the Tories’ request, with the organization’s legal counsel saying it amounts to “politics, not proper process.”

The Tories’ request is contained in a letter sent Sunday from Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre and ethics critic Michael Barrett to Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers who co-founded WE more than 20 years ago.

It represents the official Opposition’s latest effort to continue digging into the decision to have WE run a multimillion-dollar student-volunteer program, after Trudeau temporarily shuttered several Commons committee investigations by proroguing Parliament on Aug. 18.

In their letter, Poilievre and Barrett note the Kielburgers and other WE officials committed to provide members of Parliament with answers to several questions they were unable to answer while appearing before the finance committee.

Those unanswered questions are outlined in two annexes prepared by the Library of Parliament and attached to the Conservatives’ letter, and include details on WE’s discussions with the Liberal government about the Canada Student Services Grant.

The finance committee also asked the charity to provide more information about two trips that WE hosted for then-finance minister Bill Morneau and his family to Kenya and Ecuador.

“That additional information had not been provided to the committee at the time that Justin Trudeau shut down Parliament,” Poilievre and Barrett wrote to the Kielburgers.

“However, given you both expressed your desire to provide members of Parliament with the information required, we urge you to not wait for the House of Commons to return in September.”

The Kielburgers spoke to the finance committee via videolink on July 28, at which time they insisted WE was not chosen to run the Canada Student Services Grant because of the organization’s ties to Trudeau and other members of the Liberal government.

READ MORE: Tories ask speaking agency to release records on WE’s payments to Trudeau family

WE executives Dalal Al Waheidi, Scott Baker and Sofia Marquez appeared two weeks later, when they were grilled over dozens of communications with public office holders despite not being registered with the federal lobbyist registry.

In a statement to the Canadian Press on Sunday, a lawyer for WE appeared to reject the Conservatives’ request.

“Mr. Poilievre’s letter amounts to politics, not proper process,” William McDowell said. “The committees ceased to exist with the prorogation of Parliament. There is no committee to receive the documents.”

McDowell added that ”when there is a new committee, our clients will be pleased to communicate with the clerk of the new committee regarding the production of documents.”

All committee work officially ends when Parliament is prorogued.

But the committees can reconstitute themselves and continue their studies when it resumes. That is expected to happen after the throne speech on Sept. 23 as opposition parties hold a majority of seats on all committees.

To that end, Poilievre and Barrett warned the finance committee would “aggressively” follow up on any outstanding information after Parliament resumes, “but we are certain that in the spirit of co-operation you will want to proactively respond now.”

The Canada Student Services Grant was announced by Trudeau on June 25 and billed as a way for students to earn money towards their post-secondary education by volunteering for charities and non-profit groups fighting COVID-19.

But the government’s decision to have WE run the program, which had an announced budget of $912 million, drew immediate allegations of a conflict of interest due to Trudeau’s ties to the charity, including appearances at several of its WE Day rallies.

WE eventually backed out of the agreement, citing political controversy, and the grant program has since been abandoned. The ethics commissioner is now investigating Trudeau, whose family was paid to appear at several WE events, as well as Morneau.

Barrett wrote last week to Speaker’s Spotlight, the agency through which WE paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother for those events, to hand over all documents about the arrangements.

Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet’s discussions about the agreement to have WE run the grant program, but insisted it was public servants who recommended the organization.

Thousands of government documents released by Trudeau when he prorogued Parliament appear to back up that assertion, but also suggest bureaucrats may have been encouraged to work with WE by their political masters.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

The Thornhill Volunteer Fire Department responded to an engine Dec. 3 on Highway 16, using a compressed air and foam solution to extinguish the flames. (Submitted Photo/Krista Bowman)
Semi truck engine catches fire in Thornhill

Firefighters used a compressed air and foam solution to put out the fire

A volunteer committee is urging the provincial government to complete grizzly habitat mapping. (Ivan Hardwick photo)
Volunteer committee urges province to complete grizzly habitat mapping

Committee says only 18 of 37 watersheds have been mapped, province has spent $500,000 so far

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Terrace RCMP arrested an impaired driver and found illicit drugs, weapons and stolen property in the vehicle on Nov. 28, 2020. (File Photo)
Terrace RCMP arrest impaired driver in possession of weapons

Weapons, illicit drugs, stolen property found in vehicle

A COVID-19 exposure has been recorded at Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure occurred between Nov. 23 and Nov. 26, 2020. (Centennial Christian School Facebook photo)
COVID-19 exposure recorded at Centennial Christian School in Terrace

It’s the first known school exposure in Terrace

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Most Read