Justin Trudeau will answer questions from a House of Commons committee about his connection to WE Charity, in a July 30, 2020 study. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to testify today on WE Charity controversy

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau will be in the hot seat today for a rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee, facing questions about his role in the simmering controversy involving the WE organization.

MPs on the finance committee will grill Trudeau about the events that led to his Liberal cabinet asking the WE Charity to oversee a $912-million program that provides grants to students and graduates for volunteering.

Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford was also scheduled to testify today.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre warned that if the prime minister doesn’t fully answer questions from opposition MPs about his own and his family’s ties to the WE organization, they will call him back again.

“We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Poilievre told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday.

The Conservatives say many of their questions for Trudeau will revolve around hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees paid to members of his family for appearing at WE events, along with related expenses.

WE had previously confirmed that Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, was paid about $250,000 for 28 speaking appearances at WE-related events between 2016 and 2020 and his brother Alexandre has been paid $32,000 for eight events.

WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger testified Tuesday that Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has participated in seven WE Days and received an average of $3,618 for each event, to cover her expenses. That works out to $25,326 in total.

The Conservatives are now calling on federal ethics czar Mario Dion to widen his probe of Trudeau to include travel expenses WE covered in addition to speaking fees for his mother, wife and brother.

“What else is he hiding in this affair?” Poilievre said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Dion sent letters to Conservative and NDP MPs saying he is widening his investigations into trips Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his family participated in that were sponsored by the WE organization.

Morneau told the Commons finance committee last week he had freshly repaid WE Charity more than $41,000 in expenses for trips he and his family took in 2017 to see and take part in some of the organization’s humanitarian work.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he believes details that have emerged since the program was announced suggest the deal awarding WE the Canada Student Services Grant program was never about students, but about helping close friends of the Liberals and of Trudeau.

“That is deeply troubling,” he said Wednesday in Burnaby, B.C.

“A prime minister should work for people, should work for Canadians, should not be working in the interest of enriching his or her family or his or her close friends.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2020.

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