OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives are calling on WE Charity to release a series of documents the Toronto-based youth organization promised to hand over to a House of Commons committee before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament.
But WE is pushing back against the Tories’ request, with the organization’s legal counsel saying it amounts to “politics, not proper process.”
The Tories’ request is contained in a letter sent Sunday from Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre and ethics critic Michael Barrett to Craig and Marc Kielburger, the brothers who co-founded WE more than 20 years ago.
It represents the official Opposition’s latest effort to continue digging into the decision to have WE run a multimillion-dollar student-volunteer program, after Trudeau temporarily shuttered several Commons committee investigations by proroguing Parliament on Aug. 18.
In their letter, Poilievre and Barrett note the Kielburgers and other WE officials committed to provide members of Parliament with answers to several questions they were unable to answer while appearing before the finance committee.
Those unanswered questions are outlined in two annexes prepared by the Library of Parliament and attached to the Conservatives’ letter, and include details on WE’s discussions with the Liberal government about the Canada Student Services Grant.
The finance committee also asked the charity to provide more information about two trips that WE hosted for then-finance minister Bill Morneau and his family to Kenya and Ecuador.
“That additional information had not been provided to the committee at the time that Justin Trudeau shut down Parliament,” Poilievre and Barrett wrote to the Kielburgers.
“However, given you both expressed your desire to provide members of Parliament with the information required, we urge you to not wait for the House of Commons to return in September.”
The Kielburgers spoke to the finance committee via videolink on July 28, at which time they insisted WE was not chosen to run the Canada Student Services Grant because of the organization’s ties to Trudeau and other members of the Liberal government.
WE executives Dalal Al Waheidi, Scott Baker and Sofia Marquez appeared two weeks later, when they were grilled over dozens of communications with public office holders despite not being registered with the federal lobbyist registry.
In a statement to the Canadian Press on Sunday, a lawyer for WE appeared to reject the Conservatives’ request.
“Mr. Poilievre’s letter amounts to politics, not proper process,” William McDowell said. “The committees ceased to exist with the prorogation of Parliament. There is no committee to receive the documents.”
McDowell added that “when there is a new committee, our clients will be pleased to communicate with the clerk of the new committee regarding the production of documents.”
All committee work officially ends when Parliament is prorogued.
But the committees can reconstitute themselves and continue their studies when it resumes. That is expected to happen after the throne speech on Sept. 23 as opposition parties hold a majority of seats on all committees.
To that end, Poilievre and Barrett warned the finance committee would “aggressively” follow up on any outstanding information after Parliament resumes, “but we are certain that in the spirit of co-operation you will want to proactively respond now.”
The Canada Student Services Grant was announced by Trudeau on June 25 and billed as a way for students to earn money towards their post-secondary education by volunteering for charities and non-profit groups fighting COVID-19.
But the government’s decision to have WE run the program, which had an announced budget of $912 million, drew immediate allegations of a conflict of interest due to Trudeau’s ties to the charity, including appearances at several of its WE Day rallies.
WE eventually backed out of the agreement, citing political controversy, and the grant program has since been abandoned. The ethics commissioner is now investigating Trudeau, whose family was paid to appear at several WE events, as well as Morneau.
Barrett wrote last week to Speaker’s Spotlight, the agency through which WE paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother for those events, to hand over all documents about the arrangements.
Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet’s discussions about the agreement to have WE run the grant program, but insisted it was public servants who recommended the organization.
Thousands of government documents released by Trudeau when he prorogued Parliament appear to back up that assertion, but also suggest bureaucrats may have been encouraged to work with WE by their political masters.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2020.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Source: – News Talk 650 CKOM
End 'Wild West' for political ads, campaigners say – BBC News
A surge in online political advertising spending during last year’s general election shows the need for greater transparency, campaigners say.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) estimated the three main UK-wide parties spent more than twice as much on online adverts as on 2017’s poll.
A lack of regulation was creating a “Wild West” in need of stronger oversight, it added.
The government called its efforts to reform advertising “world-leading”.
Last month, minsters published plans for a “digital imprint” on social media ads, promising “the same transparency” for voters as for election leaflets and posters.
The ERS welcomed these, but said they were “unlikely to be sufficient”.
In a report, the campaign group said providing more information to voters about political adverts online represented an “urgent challenge for democracy”.
It argued claims over their accuracy were becoming “increasingly prominent” online, where it was easier for pop-up campaigners, as well as established political parties, to influence debate.
The ERS added there had been “several high-profile examples of dishonest or misleading claims” across the political spectrum during the 2019 campaign.
It pointed out existing accuracy rules on commercial adverts did not extend to political campaigning, while donations laws provided only a “minimal” snapshot of how much parties spent online.
What did the report find?
- The study, compiled by academics Katharine Dommett and Sam Power, estimated party spending using the transparency archives of social media firms
- It found the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems combined spent around £6m campaigning on Facebook and just under £3m on Google
- The analysis suggested the Conservatives spent comparatively more on Google, backing claims it sought to reach voters through YouTube
- The researchers said 64 non-party groups had registered as official political campaigners for the election, with 46 registering after the poll was announced
- They calculated a total of 88 non-party campaign groups placed 13,197 adverts on Facebook, at a combined cost of £2.7m
The report made recommendations requiring political campaigners to provide more detailed spending invoices more quickly after elections to the Electoral Commission, the UK’s elections watchdog.
It also urged parties to work with regulators and the advertising industry to develop a code of practice for political adverts.
The Electoral Commission says it does not have the power or resources to monitor the truthfulness of political advertising.
But it has previously echoed calls for greater transparency, adding in its review of the 2019 election that rules needed to be updated.
Constitution Minister Chloe Smith said: “People want to engage with politics online. That’s where campaigners connect with voters, so naturally political parties across the board are increasing their digital campaigning activity.
“This government is already making political campaigning more transparent for voters, with new, world-leading measures that will require campaign content promoted online to explicitly show who is behind it.”
Democrats also play politics with Supreme Court seats – CNN
Don Martin: The prime minister talks turkey in a political address to the nation – CTV News
What. Was. THAT??
A prime minister calling for time across Canadian airwaves is a BIG DEAL and thus very rarely done.
It’s not allowed to be political posturing. It’s supposed to be a five-alarm siren on a matter of national significance from a prime minister who believes urgent information must be fed directly into Canadian ears.
So what does Justin Trudeau do when his demand for 15 minutes of unedited access to the airwaves was granted under the assumption it NOT be political?
In that weird breathlessness he saves for his most dramatic conversations, Trudeau warned Canadians their Thanksgiving turkey is likely cooked by the coronavirus and they might as well cancel the family feast now. Then he dangled the faint hope of Christmas salvation IF we wear masks, download the government COVID-19 tracking app and get a flu shot.
That glum scenario hardly qualifies as news-bulletin material being released by a leader with unique insights to share. It barely rates as a news story, being the parroting of what public health officials have already said about the second wave being upon many of us.
And then Trudeau dived into an overtly-partisan listing of government actions already taken and those to come, provided the throne speech gets passed by Parliament.
It was political grandstanding masked as a public service message, a transparent and shallow attempt to paste Trudeau’s face over the throne speech highlight reel instead of leaving all the television clips to a disinterested reading by scandal-tainted Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
Not to be outdone with this flexing of prime ministerial power, Trudeau’s opposition rivals jumped on the free political advertising bandwagon with highly partisan televised reactions of their own.
Clearly the last week or two have given Canadians an ominous preview of COVID cases building into a tsunami-sized wave on case projection charts.
It’s an emerging emergency which could’ve justified a national address, provided Trudeau’s 6,000-word action plan had not been read to rapture-level media coverage just four hours earlier.
All he did in the prime-time address was echo the throne speech’s pandemic as priority one and repeat the ways his government will help millions of Canadians through the approaching winter of self-isolation discontent.
To be fair, the government did launch a flotilla of lifeboats aimed at keeping COVID-displaced Canadian workers, ravaged retailers, vulnerable seniors, disadvantaged women and daycare-dependent families afloat in the second wave. (The resulting deficits which will confront post-pandemic taxpayers are going to be truly staggering).
But to flesh it out with a hodgepodge of less-urgent, undelivered or oft-repeated priorities dilutes an agenda which should be almost solely fixated on the medical and economic trauma this country is facing.
For example, it’s a safe bet Canada will be two billion trees shy of the two billion trees this government again promised to plant in the Wednesday speech by the time we head to the polls. That and most of the other non-pandemic initiatives will be quickly moved to the back-burner.
But, getting back to the address, for Trudeau to graft his message onto the throne speech was blatant duplication for purely political purposes.
Trudeau and the other party leaders will get their opportunity for an official Hansard-recorded reaction to the throne speech in the House of Commons on Thursday.
What more Trudeau can say after his urgent national address the day before is hard to imagine, unless he’s about to scare off Hallowe’en as well.
Here’s hoping the next time Trudeau demands access to the nation’s airwaves, the networks will say his turkey was cooked in 2020 when he deemed a threat to Thanksgiving worthy of a national broadcast alert.
Then they should tell Trudeau they’ll wait and air his Christmas greeting instead.
That’s the bottom line.
13 Ottawa pharmacies to begin offering COVID-19 tests Friday – CBC.ca
Leaked document reveals Ontario's plan to avoid another COVID-19 lockdown – CBC.ca
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