In a process that seemed more obsessed with holding participants to strict time limits than to allowing questioners and the Prime Minister to express themselves clearly, Justin Trudeau appeared via video to the House Finance Committee to answer questions about the WE scandal. Trudeau insisted that he did not in any way push WE forward to administer the $9 Billion Canada Student Service Grant youth volunteer program. He said the plan was conceived shortly after the pandemic hit and at the beginning, he had thought that the plan could be administered by Canada Service Corps. He said it was bureaucrats who recommended WE as the manager of the program in early May. He said he immediately pushed back against WE, aware that his family’s connection with WE would be a source of controversy. He said he sent the plan back to the drawing board, but two weeks later the ministry staff came back and assured him that the WE group were the best equipped to manage the program.
“In fact, they said if we wanted this program to happen, it could only be with WE Charity,” Trudeau said. “The choice was not between providers. It was between going ahead with WE Charity to deliver the program or not going ahead with the program at all.”
“We were told that the Canada Service Corps would not be able to scale up to deliver the program in time,” he said. “This was disappointing but ultimately not surprising to me, given my understanding of the state of the Canada Service Corps’ development and other demands facing the public service at the time.”
At times the testimony was difficult to follow as the chair kept cutting people off in mid sentence when their time ran out and also because the questioners and Trudeau continually talked over each other, particularly when the questioning came from Tory MP Pierre Poilievre . Then towards the end of the testimony the Chair Wayne Easter disappeared due to a power outage at his home.
Trudeau was unable to tell the committee the exact amount of money his family members received from WE. “My mother and my brother are professionals in their own right who have engagements and have for many, many years, with many different organizations across the country, and I don’t have the details of their work experiences or expenses,” Trudeau said.