OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing for not recusing himself from the government’s decision to award a $900 million contract to WE Charity to manage a major student-volunteering program.
He said Monday his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions.
“This morning, I know people want to hear more about the Canada student service credit program, in particular, I know there are many questions and problems with the way this program is run out,” Trudeau said. “I know people have concerns about it, I get that. I made a mistake not recusing myself immediately from the discussions, given our family’s history, and I’m sincerely sorry about not having done that.”
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) July 13, 2020
Trudeau also said he’s sorry that the delay in the program caused by WE’s eventual decision to withdraw will harm students looking for ways to help in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So I have known, obviously, for many years that my mom has been an extraordinary advocate for mental health issues, a professional public speaker who works with a range of different organizations,” Trudeau said.
“Obviously, I knew she worked with WE. I didn’t know the details of how much she was getting paid by various organizations, but I should have and I deeply regret that. I also deeply regret the fact that I have brought my mother into this situation in a way that you know is really unfair to her. I should have been thoughtful enough to recuse myself completely from any discussions around WE because of these connections, from the very beginning, and I did not. And I’m very sorry about that. ”
In a statement, WE Charity confirmed that between 2016 and 2020, the prime minister’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, received $250,000 for 28 events, while his brother, Alexandre Trudeau, received $32,000 for eight events.
The prime minister clarified the contract for WE to administer the program was for about $20 million. not the total $900.
“As to the larger contract, which includes direct payments to young people for contributions for volunteering across this country, we’re going to work with other organizations, perhaps even with Service Canada, as a way of delivering those grants for summer volunteerism,” Trudeau said.
“But that is obviously something that we’re going to continue to work out with the public service now.”
The federal Conservatives are planning to call Trudeau to testify before a parliamentary committee on his government’s decision to have WE Charity administer the $900-million student volunteer program.
The Conservatives also called for a criminal investigation after the Trudeau government gave a sole-source contract to the WE Charity.
Previously, the federal ethics commissioner announced an investigation into the federal government’s now-canceled decision to have WE Charity manage the program for summer students.