Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announces his resignation during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on August 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announces his resignation during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on August 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ethics watchdog clears Morneau of accepting gift from WE Charity

Mario Dion says he accepts Morneau ‘genuinely believed’ he had paid for the entire cost of two trips

The federal ethics watchdog has cleared former finance minister Bill Morneau of failing to disclose a gift from WE Charity.

In a letter to Morneau, ethics commissioner Mario Dion says he accepts that the former minister “genuinely believed” he had paid for the entire cost of two trips he and family members took in 2017 to view WE’s humanitarian projects in Ecuador and Kenya.

As soon as Morneau became aware last summer that WE had in fact covered $41,000 worth of expenses for the trips, Dion says he reimbursed the charity.

Because he immediately took “the appropriate corrective measures,” Dion concludes: “I am of the view that you did not accept a gift from WE Charity.”

Craig Kielburger, who co-founded WE with his brother, Marc, hailed Dion’s decision, saying in a statement that “we have always maintained that these trips were done in good faith and welcome this important clarification of the facts.”

Morneau reimbursed the money shortly before testifying on the WE affair at the House of Commons finance committee in July.

Dion says WE’s invitation to view the projects was intended to encourage Morneau’s wife to donate to the charity. He accepts Morneau’s explanation that he was not involved in her subsequent choice to make two large donations through the family foundation.

While he’s dropping his probe into this aspect of the former minister’s conduct, Dion says he continues to investigate whether Morneau breached the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to recuse himself from the cabinet decision to pay WE Charity $43.5 million to manage a since-cancelled student grant program.

Dion is also investigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s failure to recuse himself, despite his own family’s close ties to WE.

WE’s involvement in the student services grant triggered immediate controversy when announced in late June. WE withdrew from the program a few days later and the program was eventually cancelled.

In what Kielburger called a further effort to correct “inaccurate information” about the charity promulgated by opposition parties and the media, WE released Thursday the results of what it said were investigations by non-partisan experts into the charity’s overall conduct and into the student grant program in particular.

WE said the reports were commissioned by the Stillman Foundation, a U.S.-based charity.

Matt Torigian, former deputy solicitor general of Ontario, concluded the government asked WE to submit a proposal, considered the ability of other organizations to run the program and its ultimate choice of WE was “not predetermined.”

After reviewing all the organization’s finances, forensic accountant Al Rosen dismissed suggestions that the charity was in dire financial straits before being awarded the contract or that there were financial irregularities in its operations from which the Kielburger brothers stood to benefit.

“These financial findings stand in stark contrast to many public allegations launched against the organization by members of Parliament, Canadian media, and select critics,” Rosen wrote.

Morneau resigned abruptly from politics in August, as the WE affair continued to engulf the government. There were also reports of tensions between Morneau and Trudeau over massive spending on pandemic relief.

The following day, Trudeau prorogued Parliament for six weeks — a move opposition parties charged was intended to shut down committee investigations into the WE affair.

Since Parliament’s resumption in September, the Liberals have been filibustering opposition attempts to reopen those committee investigations.

However, there is no mention of the WE affair in a report to Parliament explaining the decision to prorogue — a new requirement introduced by the Trudeau government ostensibly to prevent abuse of the prorogation procedure.

The report echoes Trudeau’s explanation at the time, that the government needed to prorogue in order to come back with a throne speech outlining its plan for coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding the shattered economy.

“Five and a half months into this pandemic — the greatest challenge Canadians have faced since the Second World War — the people of Canada deserved to know that the federal government had a bold and comprehensive plan to get them through whatever challenge would come next,” the report says.

“In order for this to be the case, our government was duty-bound and honour-bound to ensure we had the continued confidence of the House of Commons. We needed to outline a clear, realistic plan on which parliamentarians would have the opportunity to vote.

“This was the only clear and transparent way to ensure that the federal government could continue to provide the support on which Canadians were relying.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former Smithereen frustrated with COVID-deniers following horrific bout with the disease

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

Pellet plants deal with a lot of combustible materials. (File photo)
“Fire-related event” at Houston pellet plant injures three, shuts down operations

Rumours of an associated explosion cannot be confirmed at this time

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Most Read