In February 2019 there were calls for Justin Trudeau to resign over the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Later in 2019 he faced an embarrassing blackface scandal. But he somehow survived both scandals, though his party took a hit. Now Trudeau is in trouble again, this time over a charity scandal and there are once again calls from the opposition for him to resign:
Trudeau’s trouble began building momentum a few weeks ago after his government announced the deal to pay WE Charity up to C$43 million to administer a C$912-million student grant program as part of Canada’s Covid-19 response. The group works on international development projects and classroom programs, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, that teach youth about civic engagement.
The public and parliamentary reaction in Canada to the news and further revelations of speaking fees and travel expenses paid to family members of Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau has been swift and harsh.
That’s the big picture but it’s really the obvious exchange of benefits between Trudeau and this ostensibly independent charity. Writing in the Washington Post, opinion columnist J.J. McCullough describes what it was like attending an event put on by this charity:
When I went to one of the “WE Day” rallies in Vancouver two years ago, I found the speakers’ lineup almost explicitly designed to aggravate anyone not aligned with the “natural governing party.” Among a gaggle of actors and musicians, I heard from the city’s progressive mayor, longtime Canadian Broadcasting Corp. anchor Peter Mansbridge and the prime minister’s wife and mother. Geared toward grade-school children, the afternoon bore the prerequisite veneer of youthful populism yet felt more like a venue for allies of the government to push their vision of the proper order of things on the next generation. Debatable liberal doctrines on everything from immigration to gun control, indigenous rights and the environment were casually presented as self-evidently correct; the kids cheered supportively…
The WE scandal is a monument to Trudeau’s obliviousness, but also the arrogance of a progressive Canadian establishment that has long assumed its politics are non-partisan. We now know WE never even bothered to register as a lobbyist before pitching policy ideas to the government. Through its connection to a bumbling prime minister, WE’s vast charity-industrial complex — what Brian Lilley calls “Kielburger Inc.” — has been exposed as just one more tool through which a haughty network of Canadian politicians, activists and media personalities collect state subsidies and push their worldview while imagining it’s neutral community service.
In 2017, this charity even produced a glossy, campaign style advertisement which basically made Trudeau the voice of Canada’s future.
Is this a promo for the charity or for the Prime Minister? The only honest answer is that it’s both. Here was the reaction to the ad from a Conservative MP: “WE works for Trudeau and Trudeau for them.”
Watch this ad. WE works for Trudeau and Trudeau for them.
It’s no longer about Trudeau’s judgment. It’s about his character. He’s corrupt. https://t.co/JbyWY3rm89
— Candice Bergen (@CandiceBergenMP) July 10, 2020
On top of that, there’s the direct payments made to Trudeau’s family by the charity for speaking gigs:
The WE organization paid the prime minister’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, $312,000 for 28 speeches since 2016, as first reported by the media website Canadaland.
WE also paid Trudeau’s brother, Alexandre “Sacha” Trudeau, $40,000 for eight appearances in 2017-2018 and, back in 2012, $1,400 to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Trudeau was, at the time, a member of Parliament, but not the leader of the Liberal party or prime minister.
Previously, WE Charity had said no member of the Trudeau family had been paid for their appearances, with the exception of travel expenses for Grégoire Trudeau.
That’s a lot of money going to Trudeau’s family, and when initially asked about it they lied. The contract with WE has now been cancelled but the scandal continues to snowball. Trudeau has claimed that the non-partisan public service recommended WE as the only group that could administer the nearly $1 billion Canadian contract but that has been disputed:
“I think the public service has proven itself very capable, accountable and certainly would have been absolutely able to administer this program,” said Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told MPs.
Earlier this week, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer grilled Trudeau in Parliament with a series of questions, some of which the Prime Minister refused to answer:
Just today, Scheer has called for Trudeau to step down:
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said today that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau need to “step aside for the good of the country” over the WE Charity scandal.
Speaking to reporters in Regina, Sask., Scheer said their departures would “allow the government to move past these scandals” and would “improve the lives of Canadians.”
“These individuals need to do the right thing,” he said.
Scheer said Liberal MPs should push for new leadership so that the party can “rehabilitate its very tarnished image.”
It won’t happen of course. Trudeau has been through this once with SNC-Lavalin and he’ll try to tap dance through this as well. But the two previous scandals did cost his Liberal party even if it didn’t cost him his job. This time he’s starting off from a worse position.