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Democracy Watch calls for different ethics inquiry into WE Charity contract, and also for different RCMP investigation

Based on NDP and Conservative requests filed so far, neither Ethics Commissioner nor RCMP are investigating key question of whether Prime Minister Trudeau and/or anyone acting on his behalf (including Katie Telford) tried to influence the recommendation for a sole-source WE contract

Democracy Watch also calls in separate letter for ethics investigation of Finance Minister Morneau actions given his family ties to the WE Charity

Ethics Commissioner should not investigate as he was handpicked by Trudeau Cabinet through secretive, dishonest process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, July 13, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the 14-page letter it has sent to federal Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion calling on him to ensure a different independent investigation and ruling on whether Prime Minister Trudeau and/or anyone acting on his behalf tried to influence the decision he claims public servants made on their own to recommend that a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program.

As Democracy Watch’s letter details, given the Prime Minister’s extensive family ties to WE Charity, if he or anyone acting on his behalf (including any Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) staff, any Cabinet minister or their staff, any Privy Council Office appointee, or any deputy or associate deputy minister, or deputy or associate deputy head) participated in or attempted to influence any public servant’s decision, it would be a violation of subsections 6(1) and section 9 of the federal Conflict of Interest Act (and possibly also section 8 if secret inside information was used in the attempt).

On Sunday, the Globe and Mail published an article with new information about the role of Katie Telford, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, in the contracting process. According to the article: “The Prime Minister’s Office said Ms. Telford did not recuse herself from discussions about the contract…”

Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure a second inquiry is undertaken because the letters from Conservative MP Michael Barrett (June 28th) and NDP MP Charlie Angus (July 3rd) to Ethics Commissioner Dion did not request that Mr. Dion investigate whether PM Trudeau or anyone acting on his behalf tried to influence the decision to recommend a sole-source contract, a decision the PM claims the public service made on its own.

Commissioner Dion’s July 3rd response letters to MP Barrett and to MP Angus, and his office’s tweet that day say that he is only investigating whether Prime Minister Trudeau violated subsection 6(1) and sections 21 and 7 of the Act. And his response letters and tweet all strongly suggest that Commissioner Dion is only investigating the Prime Minister’s actions of announcing the WE Charity contract on June 25th, and defending the contract afterwards with the false claim that WE is the only organization that could administer the CSSG.

As Democracy Watch’s letter summarizes, DWatch’s position is that evidence revealed since July 3rd shows clearly those actions by Prime Minister Trudeau violated those sections. The PM’s spouse volunteers as an ambassador and champion for WE Charity, including hosting a podcast for it, and his mother and brother have been paid large sums to give speeches for the charity, and the PM has also appeared at several WE events. Given these ties, the PM had clear conflict of interest concerning any decision that furthered the interests of the charity.

As a result, when the PM revealed on July 8th that he didn’t recuse himself from the Cabinet decision to approve the WE Charity contract, he essentially admitted that he had violated subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the Act, which together require recusal when in even an appearance of a conflict of interest.

And by participating in approving a sole-source contract for WE Charity, while making the false claim that WE is the only organization that could administer the CSSG program, Prime Minister Trudeau also provided preferential treatment to WE based on who represents the charity, which violates section 7 of the Act.

Letter to RCMP re: breach of trust investigation

DWatch also released the 10-page letter it mailed to the RCMP last Friday calling for an investigation into whether the PM or anyone acting on his behalf attempted to influence anyone’s decision to recommend a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity.

This is different than the request the Conservative Party has reportedly sent to the RCMP that asks for an investigation into whether WE Charity essentially bribed the Prime Minister’s family in order to obtain the contract.

In DWatch’s opinion, if the PM or anyone acting on his behalf attempted to influence that decision, it is worthy of an investigation to determine if they violated the section 122 breach of trust section of the Criminal Code. Under the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R. v. Boulanger (para. 58), there is a five-part test for breach of trust. The WE Charity contract situation involves evidence for all five parts, as the Prime Minister 1. is a public official; 2. who took part in an official decision; 3. that violates the ethics standards for his office; 4. and violates those rules in a significant way, and; 5. the Prime Minister made dishonest statements to excuse his participation in the decision, all to unethically further the financial interests of one of his wife’s favourite charities.

DWatch will be sending a follow-up letter to the RCMP with the new information revealed on Sunday by the Globe about Katie Telford’s involvement in the contracting process.

Letter re: Finance Minister Bill Morneau taking part in approval of contract

Democracy Watch also released the 6-page letter it has sent to the Ethics Commissioner concerning Finance Minister Bill Morneau participating in the Cabinet decision to approve the WE Charity contract. Given Minister Morneau’s one daughter has worked with the organization, and his other daughter works for the organization, DWatch’s position is that he violated subsection 6(1) and section 21 of the CofI Act by participating in the contract decision.

“Democracy Watch is calling on the Ethics Commissioner to ensure an independent investigation into the big, key question the Commissioner is not yet investigating – did Prime Minister Trudeau or anyone acting on his behalf attempt to influence the decision in favour of recommending that a sole-source contract be awarded to WE Charity?” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Ethics Commissioner Dion cannot do this investigation as he was handpicked by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process that is being challenged in court, he has a record of 8 unethical and questionable actions when he was Integrity Commissioner and his senior lawyer is a Trudeau Cabinet minister’s sister-in-law. Commissioner Dion must delegate the investigation to someone independent of his office and all political parties, such as a provincial ethics commissioner.”

“The RCMP should also investigate as there is evidence that raises the question of whether the situation involves more than just ethics violations and amounts to a breach of trust,” said Conacher.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Democracy Watch’s and Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Fraud Politician Spending Campaign