OTTAWA—Canadian Prime Minister
didn’t violate the country’s conflict-of-interest laws when his Liberal government awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a charity with financial ties with his family, according to the results of an investigation released Thursday.
Tumult over the contract to WE Charity, a Toronto-based organization that in the past paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Trudeau’s mother and brother to participate at its events, dogged Mr. Trudeau and Liberal officials for much of last summer.
The uproar prompted
then Canada’s finance minister, to step down last August and leave politics and focus on becoming the new head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He didn’t get the OECD job.
The WE Charity affair marked the third ethics probe targeting Mr. Trudeau since he came to power over five years ago, although the first in which he was cleared of wrongdoing.
“Although the connection between Mr. Trudeau’s relatives and WE created the appearance of a conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict is insufficient to cause a contravention” of Canada’s conflict-of-interest laws, Ethics Commissioner
said. “I am satisfied that there was no opportunity to further Mr. Trudeau’s own interests or those of his relatives from WE’s role” in running a student-volunteer program, valued at nearly 1 billion Canadian dollars, or the equivalent of $820 million.
Mr. Trudeau said he welcomed the commissioner’s findings.
WE was awarded a C$43 million contract to manage the program, which would funnel money to students who faced difficulty finding summer jobs in exchange for volunteering in the community. The contract was later canceled after the charity said it paid nearly C$300,000 to Mr. Trudeau’s mother and brother in speaking fees, and another C$187,000 to cover eligible expenses. The charity said it secured the contract after talks with bureaucrats, and not through its relationship with Mr. Trudeau or his family. The cabinet, which Mr. Trudeau leads, approved giving the contract to WE.
The ethics commissioner, however, said it found Mr. Morneau violated conflict-of-interest laws on at least three occasions. Before stepping down, Mr. Morneau disclosed his family accepted tens of thousands of dollars of hospitality and accommodation from WE. Further, one of Mr. Morneau‘s daughters worked for WE Charity.
”The relationship between Mr. Morneau and WE included an unusually high degree of involvement between their representatives and afforded WE unfettered access to the minister’s office, which amounted to preferential treatment,” Mr. Dion said.
In a statement he posted on his
account, Mr. Morneau said the student-volunteer program was meant to help students get work experience during “one of the greatest economic challenges of our lifetime.” In retrospect, he added, he should have recused himself from cabinet deliberations on awarding the contract to WE.
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