Deal with WE paid less than budget, docs show, as Trudeau to testify Thursday

Deal with WE paid less than budget, docs show, as Trudeau to testify Thursday

Deal with WE paid less than budget, docs show, as Trudeau to testify Thursday

OTTAWA — The federal government agreed to pay no more than $543.5 million as part of a deal to have the WE organization run a student-volunteer program that was budgeted to spend hundreds of millions more.

Most of the money — $500 million — was budgeted for grants to students who took part in volunteer opportunities.

The remaining $43.53 million was to go to the WE organization itself for running the program, which the Liberals have described as having a budget of $900 million.

The agreement signed in late June with WE Charity Foundation, which charity records with the Canada Revenue Agency show was registered in January 2019, required the organization to create up to 40,000 placements.

The deal also required the organization to get outside groups to provide service opportunities for students facing a summer without work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially creating an additional 60,000 placements.

The federal government has said the program has a budget of up to $912 million, listing it as such in all its public spending documents. Ian Shugart, clerk of the Privy Council, told the finance committee last week that the $500 million was to be the first tranche of money.

The program is supposed to provide grants of $1,000 for every 100 hours of volunteering, up to a maximum of $5,000 as part of a government aid program to help defray the cost of school in the fall.

It has yet to launch.

The most recent filing the Finance Department provided to the MPs noted students can apply for placements until Aug. 21, and need to complete their hours by Oct. 31 to receive a lump-sum payment.

The agreement is dated June 23 and was scheduled to run until the end of March 2021.

A copy of the agreement with WE was filed with the House of Commons finance committee, which met Monday afternoon to figure out the details of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s planned testimony.

Trudeau and his chief of staff Katie Telford have agreed to appear before the committee as part of a parliamentary probe into the Liberal government’s aborted deal with the WE organization.

They are scheduled to do so Thursday afternoon.

WE backed out of the program in early July, citing the controversy over the Liberals’ handing the organization a sole-sourced deal, despite its ties to Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

WE also agreed at the time to repay any money it was given. Under the terms of the agreement, that would have been $19.5 million upon signing the deal.

The organization said Monday the payment was made on June 30, having started work on the program on May 5. That was the same day Youth Minister Bardish Chagger went to a special COVID-19 cabinet committee with the recommendation to go with WE for the program.

WE said it is still working out the details of repayment with the government.

The group also said it used WE Charity Foundation — an entity that ”never previously operated nor held any funds or assets” — to run the program to “limit liability” and protect WE Charity’s assets.

There is also a provision for additional payments on July 2, which was the day before WE publicly said it was handing the program back to the government.

The program has been all but frozen since, with the department in charge saying it’s working on a transition plan.

The controversy hasn’t abated. The federal ethics commissioner is probing whether Trudeau and Morneau violated conflict of interest rules for not recusing themselves from discussions about WE.

Both have apologized, saying they should have recused themselves from talks. Trudeau because the organization has paid his mother, brother and wife speaking fees over the years totalling some $300,000; for Morneau, it was due to his daughters’ ties to the organization, including one who works in an administrative wing.

Morneau testified before the committee last week and told MPs he had cut a $41,366 cheque to WE earlier in the day for travel expenses the group covered for trips he and his family took three years ago.

Shortly after that, Trudeau accepted an invitation to testify, setting up a rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee.

He is scheduled to testify for one hour, with Telford following for a second hour.

WE co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger and former WE Charity board chair Michelle Douglas are scheduled to testify before the committee on Tuesday afternoon,

The organization’s chief financial officer Victor Li, one of the signatories to the contribution agreement, is now expected to testify next week.

The Kielburger brothers, who founded the organization two decades ago, said in a statement that they wanted to testify before the committee to set the record straight about the Canada Student Service Grant program.

The finance committee decided on Monday to have the Kielburgers testify for four hours, either all at once on Tuesday, or spread evenly over two days.

Much of the committee meeting was spent haggling over the scope of the parliamentary probe, including the number of witnesses to call.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said July 2 was the date the WE organization announced it would no longer administer the Canada Student Service Grant.

Politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paintearth Lodge staff members and residents pose with some of the many items donated to the facility for the online auction held Nov. 19th to 23rd.
Contributed photo
Paintearth Lodge holds online auction

Over $7,600 was raised, with the money going towards recreation activities for the residents

“I urge Albertans to exercise patience and kindness in the days ahead," Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

Province provides daily update

A long-time Castor Resident is on the move. Luella Kowalsky, who has lived in the Town of Castor since 1977, is moving to an assisted living facility in Innisfail to be closer to family. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Long-time Castory resident Luella Kowalsky is leaving the community

Kowalsky will be closer to two of her kids, who live in the Sundre area

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Wetaskiwin Composite High School. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools prepare for transition back to online learning

Grades 7-12 will are mandated to transfer to online learning starting Nov. 30, 2020.

Lawyer Devon Page, Ecojustice Canada’s executive director, pauses during a news conference in Vancouver on Wed., Sept. 26, 2012. The environmental law group has lost its bid to pause Alberta’s inquiry into where critics of its oil and gas industry get their funding. Ecojustice sought an injunction this summer to suspend the inquiry, headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan, until there is a decision on whether it’s legal. nbsp;THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Judge tosses application to pause Alberta inquiry into funding of oil and gas foes

Ecojustice sought an injunction in the summer to suspend the inquiry

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Most Read