Trudeau and top aide to testify on WE affair Thursday
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is slated to appear before the House of Commons finance committee on Thursday to testify about the government's now-cancelled decision to have WE Charity manage a $912-million federal program.
His chief of staff Katie Telford is also scheduled to appear.
The date and time for the hotly anticipated committee meeting was published Monday on the committee's webpage, which revealed that Trudeau is slated to testify for an hour starting at 3pm E.T. and Telford will testify for another hour shortly thereafter.
His appearance will come two days after the co-founders of WE Charity, Craig and Marc Kielburger, are slated to appear before the committee. Victor Li, WE Charity's CFO, and Michelle Douglas, WE Charity's former chair of the board of directors, are also slated to appear on Tuesday.
However, that meeting's schedule could find itself looking different on Tuesday, as the finance committee voted on Monday to ask the Kielburgers to stay with the committee for four hours of questioning, rather than the currently scheduled hour and a half. The Kielburgers have yet to respond to the request.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau had his turn testifying before the committee last week, during which he was grilled over information he revealed within the meeting.
During that finance committee meeting, Morneau revealed that members of his family took two trips in 2017 that WE Charity paid for in part. He also revealed that he joined them on one of those trips. Morneau said that on Wednesday -- the day of the meeting -- he repaid the $41,000 the charity had initially covered related to the trips. He also disclosed that his wife has made two $50,000 donations to the organization in recent years.
Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have issued apologies for not removing themselves from conversations about granting WE Charity the student volunteer program, given their personal connections to the organization.
Trudeau's mother, brother and wife have all been paid for their involvement in WE Charity events, while the finance minister’s daughter Clare has spoken at WE events, and his daughter Grace is currently employed by WE Charity.
It isn't common for prime ministers to appear before parliamentary committees. The last time was over a decade ago
In September 2006, then-prime minister Stephen Harper appeared before a Senate committee to discuss Senate reform. Harper did, however, turn down the invitation to appear before a committee in 2013, when he was asked to testify about Nigel Wright's payment to Sen. Mike Duffy.
Trudeau has also dodged a few committee invitations of his own.
In 2017, Liberals shut down an ethics committee attempt to invite the prime minister to testify about his vacation on a private island owned by the Aga Khan the Christmas prior — a vacation that was later found to have been in violation of the 11th paragraph of the Conflict of Interest Act. In 2019, Liberals on the same committee also used their majority to shut down a bid to invite Trudeau to testify about the SNC-Lavalin affair.
When he speaks before the parliamentary committee on Thursday, Trudeau will first have the chance to provide opening remarks sharing his thoughts on the issue. That will be followed by a series of questions from members of Parliament who sit on the committee.
Both the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois have called on Trudeau and Morneau to resign as a result of the WE Charity controversy.
With files from The Canadian Press
Bruce Sellery is a personal finance expert, columnist and author of the Globe & Mail bestselling series Moolala
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Political insider David Heurtel, former Liberal cabinet minister and counsel at Fasken