Canada’s Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced that he was probing a possible breach of federal conflict of interest act by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after his government’s decision to award a contract to administer a summer student grant program of C$900 million ($664 million) to a charity.
Trudeau and his Liberal government have been under fire since WE Charity was announced as the manager of the Canada Student Service Grant program last week, because of the premier’s close relationship with the group, reports Xinhua news agency.
Trudeau and his mother, Margaret, have appeared at a number of WE Day events, while Trudeau’s wife Sophie, hosts a podcast for the group called “WE Well-being”.
Charity experts have also questioned whether WE Charity is equipped for the fine-grained management of such a big government-funded program.
Dion initiated his investigation after two Canadian MPs requested him to examine the prime minister’s conduct in relation to the contract.
In a letter to an MP, Dion said he will be investigating Trudeau under subsection 6(1) of the act, which prohibits public office holders from making decisions that further their own private interests or the interests of another person.
Trudeau also is being investigated under sections 7 and 21 of the act, which deal with giving someone preferential treatment and failing to recuse from a conflict of interest.
Friday morning, WE Charity and the federal government announced they were ending the partnership.
Instead, public servants will administer the pandemic-related grants, Trudeau said.
Trudeau said the decision to cut ties was “WE’s decision, which we support”.
“Obviously this situation unfolded in a way that is truly unfortunate because one of the things that ends up happening with this is that young people won’t maybe have the same kind of access to programs that they would have.”
The program is to pay up to C$5,000 ($3,680) for schooling costs for participants who volunteer the maximum 500 hours, and is aimed at students who can’t find work this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.