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Trudeau defends work on contract now engulfing his government

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Trudeau defends work on contract now engulfing his government

Justin Trudeau aired regrets Thursday as he took heat over a C$544 million Covid-19 program that has him tangled in his third self-inflicted ethics controversy.

In a rare Canadian political spectacle, the prime minister spent 90 minutes defending himself before a parliamentary committee over a sole-source contract his government awarded to a powerful charity with close ties to his family — a matter, he said, he sought greater scrutiny on because of those connections.

“Instead of encouraging it along like some people say because it was somehow connected to my family, I actually slowed it down and pushed back on it to try and make sure that everything was done exactly right,” Trudeau told MPs via video conference, a hearing that made him one of the very few sitting prime ministers to appear before a parliamentary committee. “Because I knew there would be questions asked because of the links to the family. But in no way was this benefiting my mother or my brother.”

The problems for Trudeau erupted after the contract, worth up to C$43.5 million, was signed with WE Charity to administer a C$544 million student grant program that’s part of Canada’s pandemic response. Trudeau has already been found guilty of breaking conflict-of-interest laws since becoming minister in 2015 twice before and the latest row has kicked off a probe by the ethics commissioner once again — an investigation that encompasses his finance minister — and calls by rivals for his resignation.

WE works on international development projects and educational programs, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, that teach young people about civic engagement. But the deal, announced in late June, was canceled within days amid an uproar about the charity's connections to Trudeau's family, including revelations that his mother and brother have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking, travel and hospitality fees by the organization over the past half decade.

Trudeau himself has spoken at major WE events and his wife has been one of the group’s ambassadors, which is an unpaid role except for expenses.

While fielding questions Thursday, Trudeau repeated that in hindsight he should have removed himself from the Cabinet's decision-making process around the contract once he discovered WE was involved.

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Justin Trudeau allowed his mother and brother to get rich off of this "charity", then passes almost $50 million dollars to it as payback. He has already broken conflict of interest laws twice, and this is the third time where he is enriching his own family. Never mind the embarrassing trip to India where he mocked the people of that country.

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