Morneau now under ethics investigation over WE Charity dealings
OTTAWA -- The federal ethics commissioner has launched an investigation into whether Finance Minister Bill Morneau breached the Conflict of Interest Act over his involvement in the WE Charity contract.
Mario Dion said concerns raised by opposition MPs about Morneau’s participation in the decision to award the organization a multi-million dollar government contract, given his close family ties to WE, satisfies the need for an investigation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also under investigation after revelations that his brother and mother were paid nearly $300,000 for speaking engagements since 2016.
Morneau’s daughter Clare has spoken at WE events and his daughter Grace is currently a contractual employee.
"Given the fact that my daughter works for the WE organization in an unrelated branch, I should have recused myself in order to avoid any perception of conflict. I will fully cooperate with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and moving forward will fully recuse myself from discussions related to the WE organization," Morneau said in a statement to CTV News, responding to the commissioner’s notice.
On July 3, the government announced that WE Charity would no longer administer the $912 million student grant program, a decision they said was mutually agreed upon.
"The decision taken by WE this morning to withdraw from this work with the government is one that we support. Obviously, the way this situation has unfolded has been unfortunate," said Trudeau during a press conference that day.
Since then, both the prime minister and finance minister have issued apologies for not recusing themselves from cabinet discussions about WE.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, along with three other members of Parliament, wrote to the ethics commissioner requesting a formal query. Dion responded Thursday.
"In your letter, you allege that, given Mr. Morneau’s family ties with WE Charity and his participation in discussions relating to the decision to have the organization administer the Canada Student Service Grant, Mr. Morneau furthered the private interests of WE Charity in contravention of subsection 6(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act (Act)," reads the letter from Dion.
"I have considered your request and am of the view that it satisfies the requirements set out in subsection 44(2) of the Act. I am therefore commencing an examination under subsection 44(3) of the Act into a possible contravention of subsection 6(1), along with another provision."
Conservative MPs Michael Cooper and Pierre Poilievre also requested an investigation.
The ethics committee will meet on Friday, to decide whether to also move forward with a review.
"Once again, the Ethics Commissioner has opened an investigation into a Trudeau Liberal Minister. Bill Morneau is now under investigation for his involvement in Justin Trudeau’s $900 million scandal. It’s also clear that a criminal investigation is warranted. Conservatives will continue to hold the Prime Minister and his government accountable for this scandal. We will not rest until Canadians have answers," said Conservative ethics critic, MP Michael Barrett in a statement to CTVNews.ca.