Jul 22, 2020

Transcript: Justin Trudeau Faces Questions in Parliament Over WE Charity Controversy

Trudeau faces questions over WE Charity controversy in Parliament
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsTranscript: Justin Trudeau Faces Questions in Parliament Over WE Charity Controversy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal officials were questioned in Parliament by opposition MP’s about the WE Charity controversy & scandal. Read the transcript here.

 

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Andrew Scheer: (00:00)
Will the prime minister appear before the finance committee?

Speaker 1: (00:08)
The Honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (00:10)
We have received the invitation, Mr. Speaker. We will consider it, and I’m very happy to be here today to answer your questions. I will also be here tomorrow in the house so that the opposition members can ask me all the questions they wish. As I’ve already said, it was the independent public service that made the recommendation of the We Charity to deliver opportunities to students. I should have excused myself from that discussion. I did not, and I am sorry.

Speaker 1: (00:41)
[French 00:00:00:40].

Andrew Scheer: (00:41)
This isn’t about just a simple recusal, Mr. Speaker. Here we have an organization that has paid cash to the prime minister’s family and given him and other senior liberals a massive political platform. That organization gets in trouble after gobbling up millions of dollars worth of prime Toronto real estate and breaking their bank covenant. They then lobby the government for a tailor-made program that they will be able to take an administration fee for managing. The government does them even better comes up with an even bigger program, gives them a sole source contract, and the prime minister would have us all believe that this is a massive coincidence? Will the prime minister do the right thing, show up and testify at committee?

Speaker 1: (01:23)
The Right Honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (01:23)
Mr. Speaker, during this unprecedented pandemic, we put out billions of dollars to support Canadians young and old, workers, employers, and entrepreneurs to make through this particular challenge that is hitting us all extremely hard. We put forward a $9 billion package for students that included deferral of student loans, that included direct support through jobs, through Canada summer jobs in COVID effected sectors. We’ve continued to look for ways to encourage volunteerism. We will continue to stay focused on the things that matter to students and to all Canadians.

Speaker 1: (01:59)
Honorable leader of the opposition.

Andrew Scheer: (02:01)
It is so gross and disgusting that this prime minister keeps using the pandemic as an excuse for his corruption. The very first act that this prime minister did when the pandemic hit was try to give himself unprecedented power and eliminate the role of the opposition in Parliament, and now we know why, Mr. Speaker, because when they’re pushing $300 billion worth of deficit out the door, they will stop and take the time to reward their friends. That is the essence of this liberal party under this liberal prime minister. I don’t even have another question, Mr. Speaker. It’s just disgusting.

Speaker 1: (02:39)
The Honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (02:41)
Mr. Speaker, one would think that when a House of Commons is about to pass legislation worth over $50 billion to help businesses with an extension of the wage subsidy that there might be a question from the opposition on that or on anything they want to bring forward. The fact of the matter is we remain focused on giving Canadians the support they need to get through this challenging pandemic. We will look creatively. We will look carefully at different ways of supporting students and elders, and we will keep doing that, Mr. Speaker, for all Canadians.

Speaker 1: (03:14)
Leader of the opposition.

Andrew Scheer: (03:17)
That’s right, Mr. Speaker. Nothing to see here, just move on. Don’t ask any of the tough questions. Tough questions about the relationship with an organization that paid members of his family cash, that took administration fees for running sole source government contracts after breaking their bank covenants and having members of their board resign. Now, the prime minister’s trying to hide behind the public service on this one, but I’d like to ask them a very simple question. On what basis would the public service have made their recommendation that We was the only organization that could deliver this program?

Speaker 1: (03:52)
Honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (03:55)
Mr. Speaker, when we came forward with the idea of supporting young people who would want to be involved and serve their community across the country, we as a government came forward and looked to see young people serving their country. The public service took a look at the ways they could deliver that program and determined that the We organization was the only one that could deliver that program as ambitious as it was for this summer. That was the recommendation made by the nonpartisan public service. Of course, as I apologized for, I should have recused myself because of the connection with my family, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the public service recommended that organization.

Speaker 1: (04:34)
The leader of the opposition.

Andrew Scheer: (04:36)
Well, Mr. Speaker, here’s what the charity intelligence watchdog said about that claim. “I’m not sure how you would assess the charity’s track record or capability to do this if they had not previously done such work in the past.” His explanation just doesn’t hold up, but there are two camps developing in the liberal party, Mr. Speaker. On the one hand, we have the foreign affairs minister who wisely took a barge pole and separated himself from the scandal saying that it was a mistake and he didn’t know anything about it. Then we have the deputy prime minister, who had no problem showing liberal faithful that she was willing to defend her leader. I would ask the deputy prime minister, what would it take for her to lose confidence in the scandal-plagued prime minister?

Speaker 1: (05:14)
The Right Honorable Prime Minister.

Andrew Scheer: (05:14)
Mr. Speaker, every step of the way our government has been looking to support Canadians through this unprecedented pandemic. Yes, we put out tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars into the pockets of Canadians workers, families, entrepreneurs, people working all across the country who were challenged with this pandemic. We looked for ways to support students as well through summer jobs, through creating new jobs in various industries, but also through encouraging volunteerism and service to this country. We will continue to look to ways to support Canadians right across the country through this difficult time.

Speaker 1: (05:55)
The Honorable member for Beloeil-Chambly.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (05:58)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Am I bothering anyone? Mr. Speaker, a little while ago, we had a distracting exchange with the prime minister with regard to the problems that the liberal party and the necessity of the party to improve the wage subsidy, and yesterday on committee, one liberal MP said that his party or her party was having problems. That’s true, not necessarily for financial reasons, but there are problems. I think it’s because the prime minister is crushed under the burden of files, which have nothing to do with helping Canadians. Is there any way the liberal party will renounce the wage subsidy program?

Justin Trudeau: (06:46)
I’d like to reassure the honorable member that this government is still focused 100% on Canadians, be it the Safe Restart program with $19 billion going to the provinces and territories, which was signed last week, or the $50 billion for the wage subsidy program, which we are going to pass today in this house, this government will remain focused on the work it must do for Canadians every single day, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 1: (07:19)
The Honorable member for Beloeil-Chambly.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (07:22)
Mr. Speaker, you cannot buy your way out of a crisis. Buying a lot does not mean purchasing well. The prime minister clearly is very preoccupied, perhaps too preoccupied, with other things, which have nothing to do with managing this crisis. Without presuming of the result of all the investigations of the committees, should the prime minister not temporarily, because clearly he is thinking of other things, step aside for the deputy prime minister to replace him?

Justin Trudeau: (07:59)
Mr. Speaker, as I said last week, we signed a historic agreement with the provinces on a safe restart for the economy, and today we are making available more help for businesses. $50 billion will go to businesses with a wage subsidy program. Despite the opposition focusing on one issue in particular, we are working on the issues Canadians care about, and we will keep on delivering support every day for Canadians.

Speaker 1: (08:34)
The Honorable member for Burnaby South.

Jagmeet Singh: (08:37)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The prime minister has close connections with the We Charity. That’s obvious, so why did the prime minister not recuse himself when the decision was made to award nearly a billion dollars to the charity?

Speaker 1: (08:57)
The Right Honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (08:59)
Mr. Speaker, as government, we are there to help young people.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (09:03)
The speaker as government, we are there to help young people, seniors workers, families, throughout this crisis. We wanted to help students by creating service opportunities for them, and the public service made a recommendation. They recommended that the We Charity be chosen to deliver all of these opportunities for young people across the country. We agreed to the recommendation, indeed, and I apologize. I should have recused myself because of those connections between my family and the charity.

Speaker 2: (09:34)
But apologizing means nothing if the Prime Minister keeps on breaking the rules to help his wealthy friends. Here are the facts. The Prime Minister’s family has earned over $300,000 in speaking fees from this organization. We have said that they don’t actually normally pay speakers a feat. Now, on top of that, giving a billion dollars to create a brand new program makes no sense when there’s so many existing ways to help students that are faster and are proven. So will the Prime Minister admit that this was never about helping students, and always about helping his wealthy friends?

Speaker 3: (10:10)
The right honorable Prime Minister.

Justin Trudeau: (10:12)
Mr. Speaker, it’s a shame to see such cynicism from the NDP in regards to supporting students. We put forward a $9 billion package for students. It included deferral of student loans, creation of new jobs, and sectors affected by COVID, enhancing the summer jobs program, and many other things to support students and student organizations. On top of that, we saw an opportunity to encourage service and volunteerism and create opportunities for tens of thousands of young people who want to step up during this pandemic. This is something we believe in deeply and something that this government will continue to work on.

Speaker 3: (10:47)
Honorable member for Barrie—Innisfil.

Speaker 4: (10:50)
But what’s disgusting about the We scandal is that the Prime Minister’s wife, mother, and brother were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by We, and then knowing this the Prime Minister doesn’t recuse himself from the decision to give We $912 million. Now, I’m sure the Prime Minister is grateful that the deputy Prime Minister proclaimed she still has confidence in him, while other ministers, like the minister of global affairs, is doing everything he can to distance himself from the PM’s latest ethical scandal. Well, the minister of public services and procurement tell us which cabinet camp is she in.

Speaker 3: (11:23)
The honorable minister.

Bardish Chagger: (11:23)
Mr. Speaker, what’s clear is that our government is focused on delivering for Canadians. We know that this is a very unprecedented, challenging time. We know that Canadians are struggling. We know that COVID-19 has impacted all Canadians, and disproportionately certain communities and students are no exception when it comes to the investigation from the ethics commissioner. We will be working with this office. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 3: (11:47)
Member for Barry Innisfil.

Speaker 4: (11:49)
Oh, we already know what camp the Minister of Diversion Inclusion… Oh, sorry. Diversity Inclusion and Youth is in. But the Prime Minister’s family was on the We payroll when the decision was made by the cabinet to award a sole source contract of $912 million. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. Which camp is he in? Is he in the camp of the Deputy Prime Minister’s confidence in the Prime Minister, or is he in the camp of the Global Affairs minister who is distancing himself from the Prime Minister’s latest ethical scandal?

Speaker 3: (12:26)
The honorable minister.

Bardish Chagger: (12:27)
I think our government’s focus is clear. It’s on Canadians and delivering for Canadians, and that’s what we do on this side of the house. The conservatives can choose to play their politics of division. That will not be our focus. We are in the midst of a pandemic. We are not out of the woods yet. We need to deliver for Canadians, and it’s exactly what we’ll do. The $9 billion program, the suite of programs we put forward for students was the right thing to do. And I think it’s really great that we’re talking about legislation today, debating legislation that’s going to help small businesses, that’s going to help communities, that’s going to help people with disabilities. No matter the delay the conservatives cause, we will remain focused on Canadians. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (13:01)
The member for Lévis—Lotbinière. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The close connection between the Prime Minister and the We Charity is giving off an odor of hypocrisy. The Prime Minister is under investigation by the ethics commissioner for the third time. Several ministers are becoming impatient. So, does the minister still trust the Prime Minister?

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (13:29)
Our government will keep on working for Canadians. We will make sure that they have the programs and the resources they need. With regard to the investigation, we will work with the commissioner’s office. Thank you.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (13:41)
The member for Lévis—Lotbinière.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (13:45)
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister seems to be muzzling his own ministers. I would have liked the minister herself to answer. The deputy PM still seems to be confident in the Prime Minister, but not the Foreign Affairs Minister. What about the Transportation Minister? Does he still trust the Prime Minister?

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (14:06)
The honorable minister.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (14:08)
Mr. Speaker, as I said, we’re in a crisis and we will keep on delivering for Canadians. We’re going to make sure they have the programs and resources they need during the pandemic. We are all pulling together and we will make sure that Canadians have what they need. Thank you, Mr. Speaker,

Speaker 2: (14:27)
Honorable member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Speaker 5: (14:30)
Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we’ve heard, the Prime Minister is being investigated now for a third time, this time for his $43 million bail out for his buddies at the We organization. So he spent the last five years dividing Canadians, but now we’re seeing the divide in his own caucus and in his cabinet. So some cabinet ministers have had enough of the Prime Minister, and I want to find out from the Infrastructure Minister, which side of the divide is she on?

Speaker 3: (14:59)
The honorable Minister for Diversity Inclusion and Youth.

Bardish Chagger: (15:05)
Mr. Speaker, it’s clear that on this side of the house, our focus is on Canadians, ensuring that they have the programs and resources that they need. We know that Canadians are struggling. We know that all Canadians have been impacted by COVID-19, and certain communities have been impacted even greater. And that’s why our focus is on ensuring that Canadians have the supports they need, and that’s why one of the first things we did was come out with the Canada mercy response benefit. It has helped millions of Canadians in their time of need. Our government will continue to focus on them, ensure that they have the programs or resources to get through this challenging time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 3: (15:40)
The honorable member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Speaker 5: (15:43)
Well, we know that the Minister for Diversity Inclusion and Youth… Where she sits on this issue. She was at committee last week, and gave a misleading and incomplete answer in response to questions as part of the cover up into this latest scandal. So as part of the Prime Minister muzzling his cabinet, she’s back on her feet today, but we know the Deputy Prime Minister has come out in favor of the Prime Minister. We know that the Foreign Affairs Minister not so much. So let’s find out from the liberals, let’s see how they’ve decided which team that they’re on. To the Immigration Minister, is he with the Prime Ministers coverup?

Speaker 3: (16:21)
The honorable minister.

Bardish Chagger: (16:24)
Mr. Speaker, we are in an unprecedented time, and Canadians are facing challenges. And our government is here to respond to them, and we will remain focused on them. As a Minister of Youth. I speak with numerous organizations. When I was asked to appear at committee, the first opportunity I was there to ensure that questions were being answered, and as I have stated, it was an unsolicited proposal, and it was not the CSSG. The opposition member can continue to mislead the Canadians. Unfortunately, we should demand better, and our government will focus on Canadians. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 3: (16:59)
We have a point of order coming? There’s some… Okay, wait a minute. Wait a minute. There’s no point of orders during question period, but we cannot use foul language. Now, if you’re going to call someone else a name, then the Speaker may call you out. I just want to point that out. And there’s been some banter going back and forth. That’s something that’s acceptable within what goes on. It shouldn’t exist at all, but calling someone a name is not allowed as we’ve learned in the past. [Foreign language 00:17:26].

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (17:26)
The honorable member for Rivière-du- Nord.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (17:33)
I have a colleague who must be very happy to hear her writing called out all the time. Now, Mr. Speaker, the more we’re learning about the We Charity, the more it smells. We’re being told that we would have received $19 million to manage a custom tailored program, but then that amount Rose to 43 million. they have no experience in managing volunteers, and we learned today that they are not doing well financially. Charity intelligence says that they are a bad manager …

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (18:03)
Charity intelligence says that they are bad managers, they have no experience managing volunteers. Could it be, by coincidence, that the only competencies WE charity has is have donated to the Liberal party.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (18:18)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, as I said before, our goal is to help Canadians because we realize we’re in a pandemic and we face many challenges. As I said at the finance committee and elsewhere, we were given a recommendation by the public service. I accepted that recommendation and at committee, I shared the details of the contribution. We shared that the public service had negotiated the contract with the WE charity. I shared those details as asked on committee.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (18:57)
The honorable [inaudible 00:00:58]. The apologies or the prime minister just don’t cut it anymore. He is responsible and accountable for the decisions of his government. He announced the creation of this program, knowing full well that his family had connections with the charity. He just hoped that nobody would have noticed. Any way you look at it, ethically, this is in defensible. The prime minister has to be responsible and do the only thing left for him to do, which is to step aside and let the deputy prime minister take over while the investigation unfolds.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (19:36)
The honorable minister.

Yves-Francois Blanchet: (19:38)
Mr. Speaker, from the outset, from the start of this pandemic, we said we would be there for Canadians. Regarding students, we announced a certain number of measures. We announced a $9 billion support package for students, including the Canada Student Emergency Benefit and we also announced bursaries per full time and part time students. We impose a six month moratorium on repaying student loans. With regard to the ethics commissioner, we will work with his office and make sure he has the answers he needs.

Ziad Aboultaif: (20:17)
Mr. Speaker, the prime minister can find $40 million for his friends at the WE organization who are struggling financially, but can’t do anything to help Alberta’s oil and gas sector. The finance minister promise held within hours, but when his friends at WE need the help, he has no problem cutting them a check. It’s always the same story with these liberals, help them get votes and you get the money. This government is corrupted. Where does the help for the Alberta oil and gas sector, Mr. Speaker?

Speaker 6: (20:48)
The honorable minister, [inaudible 00:20:49].

David Lametti: (20:50)
Mr. Speaker, as we have sat on a number of different occasions, we have intervened in the economy to help a number of different sectors. We have been unwavering in our support for all sectors across Canada, including the oil and gas sector, where we have put an unprecedented amount of money, Mr. Speaker, into cleaning up old and abandoned wells. This will create more jobs and more infrastructure development in that sector and help us move forward, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 6: (21:21)
The honorable member for Saskatoon grass wood.

Kevin Waugh: (21:24)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the liberals refused to tell this house whether their prime minister’s mother was paid to appear at a WE event on Parliament Hill in 2017. Over a million dollars of taxpayer money was used for this event and the liberals told Canadians the truth. Enough of those corruption. Yes or no. Was Margaret Trudel paid to appear at the We event on Parliament Hill, July 2nd, 2017?

Speaker 6: (22:01)
The honorable minister for Canadian Heritage.

Steven Guilbeault: (22:03)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. WE charity was one of several organizations that have submitted a Canada 150 proposal to the department of Canadian Heritage that was subsequently selected. The two Canada 150 contribution agreements between WE charity and the Department of Canadian Heritage were approved by the minister responsible at the time, at the recommendation of department officials. Cabinet was not involved in the process of approval of these contribution agreements. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 6: (22:29)
The honorable member for Carlton.

Speaker 7: (22:36)
In addition to the over $300,000 that the prime minister’s family received for giving speeches, how much did We charity pay his family in terms of personal spending? How much?

Speaker 7: (22:51)
The honorable minister.

Speaker 7: (22:53)
Mr. Speaker, as I said, our government will continue to ensure that Canadians have everything they need during this pandemic. We know that the ethics commissioner is investigating. We’re going to be working with his office. The members of the finance committee have asked me to testify and I did so. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 7: (23:16)
The honorable member for Carlton.

Pierre Poilievre: (23:18)
The question was how much the prime minister’s family has received in personal expenses paid by the WE organization. We already know they received over $300,000 in so- called speaking fees, but we don’t know is what additional personal expenses the organization paid for the family on top of that. One more time, how much did the WE organization or its affiliates pay in expenses for the prime minister and his family?

Speaker 6: (23:51)
The honorable minister.

Bardish Chagger: (23:51)
Mr. Speaker, as we are in the house of commons, we discuss and debate government business and it’s important that we remind Canadians, reassure Canadians, that we will be here for them during this unprecedented and challenging time. It sounds like the member opposite has questions for the WE organization. Those are great questions that he should ask the WE organization. We on this side will stay focus on Canadians. And if there’s any questions in regards to government business, I look forward to responding to them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 6: (24:19)
The honorable member for Hamilton the center.

Matthew Green: (24:21)
Mr. Speaker, like many Canadians, I would love nothing more than to provide our full attention on the COVID crisis at hand. But while people are worried about having enough money to make it to the end of the month, they see the prime minister and his liberal cabinet focusing on helping themselves and their friends instead of people. There’s alleged irregular lobbying, contracting, and pecuniary conflicts of interest related to the prime minister and the liberal cabinet. Taking responsibility means holding accountability. This is the third time the prime minister is under an investigation for breaking the rules. What exactly has he learned?

Speaker 6: (24:56)
The honorable minister.

Bardish Chagger: (24:57)
Mr, Speaker, our focus remains on ensuring that Canadians have the programs and resources that they need. I will remind the member that there are offices of parliament. There are independent agents that do important work. We have the utmost respect for offices of parliament to do that important work. We have been clear that we will work because office to ensure that he has the answers he needs. He also knows that committee members, members of all parties asked me to appear at the finance committee, I was there providing answers. They asked for officials to appear. Officials were also appearing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 6: (25:28)
The honorable member for London Fanshawe.

Lindsay Mathyssen: (25:31)
Mr. Speaker, there is no economic recovery without childcare. Women and parents can’t return to work if it means leaving their kids home alone. The liberals missed the mark on their agreement with provinces and are treating childcare as a nice to have instead of a must have. Experts, businesses, economists and parents are clear to go back to work. Families need safe, reliable and affordable childcare. Will the liberals invest the two point $5 billion required this year to finally build a universal and affordable childcare program?

Speaker 6: (26:03)
Honorable minister for families.

Ahmad Hussein: (26:05)
I want to thank the honorable member for the important question. We’re continuing with our investments in the amount of $7.5 billion over the next few years, to continue to create safe, affordable quality and accessible childcare. We’ve created over 40,000 affordable childcare spaces for the most needy families in this country. We are going ahead with our bilateral agreements in the amount of $400 million to provinces and territories. And as part of the safe restart agreement, Mr. Speaker, we are transferring to provinces and territories $625 million for a safe restart of the childcare sector, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker 6: (26:41)
The honorable member for [inaudible 00:08:44].

Speaker 7: (26:46)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Women play a tremendously important role in the Canadian labor market, and yet many women are struggling to go back to work because they must continue to assume responsibility to care for their children. We understand that without…

Speaker 7: (27:03)
…before to care for their children. We understand that without women returning to work, there will be no economic recovery after this pandemic. Mr. Speaker, what is this government doing to foster the availability of childcare services that are safe and affordable and that will allow Canadian women to get back to work?