#Ottawa; #Canada; #JustinTrudeau; #WeCharity; #CSSG; #Conservatives; #NDP
Ottawa, Jul 11 (Canadian-Media): Prime Minister Trudeau and his government have been under fire since announcing on June 25 their decision to award a $19.5 million sole-source contract to WE Charity, which has ties to Trudeau's family, to administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), a $912 million program offering grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 to post-secondary students in return for supervised volunteer hours, media reports said.
Justin Trudeau. Image credit. Official site
We Charity. Image credit: Facebook page
Approximately 35,000 students and recent graduates have applied for the CSSG, which connects them with volunteering opportunities in exchange for payments of between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the number of hours worked.
After Conservative and New Democratic Party Members of Parliament (MPs) raised concerns about the relationship between the charity and the prime minister's family, the federal ethics commissioner is investigating the WE contract to administer the volunteer grant.
Canada government's decision has been criticized by the opposition Conservatives and a few people in the charitable about the news that a subsidiary of the WE Charity paid Trudeau's mother and brother for speaking engagements.
WE Charity, which initially denied paying any money to Trudeau's family, later admitted that members of Trudeau’s family were paid for speaking at WE events.
We Charity admitted that Margaret Trudeau, Justin Trudeau's mother had received $250,000 for 28 speeches, Alexandre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau's brother had been in receipt of $32,000 for eight appearances and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau received $1,500 for an event in 2012.
Although the partnership between the federal government and We Charity had ended a few days back, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the WE contract must be investigated and Trudeau should step aside from the role of prime minister "for a few months."
Blanchet said Trudeau's creation of a program which seemed to be custom made is unacceptable.
Accusing the Liberal government, NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus said,
"Did they really think that people weren't going to notice a billion dollar contract given to people who are very close to the prime minister's family?" Angus asked while appearing on CBC News Network's Power & Politics this evening, CBC News reported.
"When asked straightforward questions about whether his family was receiving money from WE, the prime minister should have told the truth and he didn't tell the truth. That's why he's in trouble," Angus told guest host David Cochrane.
"He doesn't seem to understand, and the people around him don't seem to understand, that there are laws that have to be followed."
In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office said members of Trudeau's family "engage with a variety of organizations and support many personal causes on their own accord.
"What is important to remember here is that this is about a charity supporting students. The Canada Student Service Grant program is about giving young people opportunities to contribute to their communities, not about benefits to anyone else."
Neither WE nor Trudeau could justify their actions.
Besides Margaret and Alexandre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau has made several appearances as prime minister at WE events and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau hosts a podcast for WE raised suspicions.
In addition to the WE controversy, the focus of political attention in Ottawa on July 10 was Statistics Canada's latest figures that said jobless rate fell to 12.3 percent in June, down from the record high of 13.7 it hit in May.
Testimony of grocery store executives who recently withdrew a wage bonus for their employees was also discussed in Ottawa on July 10.
Corporate executives at three grocery chains — Loblaws, Metro and Empire Company — faced tough questions during a virtual meeting of the House of Commons industry committee on July 10 over their decision to cancel a $2-an-hour pay bump they put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the absence of the above concerns, the Liberals might only have had to worry about how they were going to manage the economy's restart and the government's fiscal situation.
With federal debt-to-GDP now expected to reach 49 percent, well below its peak of 66 percent in the mid-1990s. Although with the recovery of the economy that ratio could decline, but there will be a debate later about how to manage the deficit and the debt going forward.
The extent of the federal government's emergency spending together with the deficits of earlier years, could leave Morneau and the Liberals vulnerable to claims of being irresponsible or profligate.
Morneau will soon have to confront all the other problems this pandemic has exposed, and all the outstanding requests that have piled up over the last four months including major issues involving long-term care, precarious work, inequality, child care and climate change, and last but not the least is the need to be better prepared for the next pandemic.
Each of those issues will come with demands for new funding.
On the other hand, the NDP's leader Jagmeet Singh is already calling for a new tax on the richest Canadians, which had been proposed as a wealth tax before this pandemic.
NDPs now have even more reasons to argue for one now.
And if the Liberals, who worry about this government's legacy, leave the government on an unacceptable fiscal path, their successors would get a reason to restructure whatever is left behind.