Con­ser­va­tives push for vote on WE scan­dal

MOVE PART OF AT­TEMPT TO FORCE IS­SUE INTO HOUSE OF COM­MONS AF­TER LIB­ER­ALS STI­FLE DE­BATE

Vancouver Sun - - NP - JESSE SNY­DER

The Con­ser­va­tives are look­ing to force a vote over a pro­posal to probe deeper into the WE Char­ity scan­dal, part of an ef­fort by the op­po­si­tion to reignite the con­tro­versy that rocked the Trudeau gov­ern­ment this sum­mer.

Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers an­nounced plans Thurs­day to move a mo­tion next week that would es­tab­lish an “anti-cor­rup­tion com­mit­tee" of 15 MPS to delve into the WE scan­dal and other pos­si­ble con­flicts of in­ter­est. The mo­tion will be de­bated dur­ing op­po­si­tion day in Par­lia­ment, sched­uled for Tues­day.

The move is part of an at­tempt to force the WE is­sue into the House of Com­mons af­ter Lib­eral MPS this week sti­fled de­bate on the topic in two sep­a­rate com­mit­tees.

De­bate in the House fi­nance com­mit­tee stretched for nearly 12 hours on Thurs­day, as Lib­eral MPS used tac­ti­cal ma­noeu­vres to de­lay a vote that called for the release of a trove of doc­u­ments de­tail­ing Ot­tawa’s cor­re­spon­dences with WE Char­ity, the Toronto-based or­ga­ni­za­tion cho­sen to over­see the Canada Stu­dent Ser­vice Grant.

Those same doc­u­ments were made pub­lic in Au­gust but were highly redacted. The House of Com­mons law clerk, Philippe Dufresne, later said in a con­fi­den­tial let­ter that he had not re­ceived the doc­u­ments un­til af­ter bu­reau­crats had made the redac­tions, leav­ing him un­able to as­sess whether they had been im­prop­erly blacked out. The story was first re­ported by ipol­i­tics.

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment then pro­rogued Par­lia­ment just as the law clerk had raised the is­sue, end­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the WE scan­dal that was only partly com­pleted.

Crit­ics called the pro­ro­ga­tion a bald at­tempt by the Lib­er­als to shift fo­cus away from the WE scan­dal, which had hurt them in pub­lic opin­ion polls.

The WE con­tro­versy be­gan af­ter the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment gave a sole­sourced $912-mil­lion con­tract for the stu­dent grant pro­gram to WE Char­ity, from which some mem­bers of Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau's fam­ily had been paid to de­liver speeches. The or­ga­ni­za­tion, which had been un­der fi­nan­cial pres­sure due to the pan­demic be­fore win­ning the gov­ern­ment con­tract, shut down the char­ity in Canada af­ter the con­tro­versy.

Trudeau is fac­ing an ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion for not re­cus­ing him­self from a cabi­net vote to award the con­tract to WE.

The Lib­er­als and the op­po­si­tion par­ties have been in a stand­off for more than a week over WE Char­ity dis­clo­sure. Two par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees have been par­a­lyzed as the Lib­er­als have fil­i­bus­tered the de­bate through lengthy speeches and end­less points-of-or­der.

In the fi­nance com­mit­tee, the op­po­si­tion mem­bers are try­ing to pass a mo­tion that would protest the redac­tions ap­plied to the doc­u­ments. The mo­tion ob­jects to “what ap­pears to be a breach of its priv­i­leges by the gov­ern­ment's re­fusal to pro­vide doc­u­ments in the man­ner or­dered by the com­mit­tee,” and says Par­lia­ment's right to com­pel records is “ab­so­lute and un­fet­tered.”

In the ethics com­mit­tee, mean­while, the op­po­si­tion is try­ing to pass a mo­tion that would or­der the Speak­ers' Spot­light bureau to turn over de­tails of speak­ing fees paid to Trudeau and his wife, mother and brother over the past decade.

The doc­u­ments would be re­viewed by the com­mit­tee “in-cam­era,” mean­ing they wouldn't be made pub­lic.

The Lib­er­als have fil­i­bus­tered the past three meet­ings of the ethics com­mit­tee to pre­vent a vote on this, in­clud­ing for nearly nine hours on Thurs­day.

Speak­ing to re­porters on Fri­day, Lib­eral House Leader Pablo Ro­driguez called the Con­ser­va­tive mo­tion “ex­tremely par­ti­san and ir­re­spon­si­ble.” The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has in­stead pro­posed es­tab­lish­ing a broader com­mit­tee that tracks all spend­ing re­lated to COVID-19, rather than anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts tied specif­i­cally to the WE scan­dal.

Ro­driguez de­clined to an­swer whether the is­sue could be made into a con­fi­dence vote. Con­ser­va­tive fi­nance critic Pierre Poilievre also de­clined to com­ment on whether it could be­come a mat­ter of con­fi­dence, but said such a move would speak vol­umes.

“If Trudeau is pre­pared to call an elec­tion to thwart an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the WE scan­dal, there must be some deep, ugly dark se­crets he's try­ing.

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