Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said today that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau need to “step aside for the good of the country” over the WE Charity scandal.
Speaking to reporters in Regina, Sask., Scheer said their departures would “allow the government to move past these scandals” and would “improve the lives of Canadians.”
“These individuals need to do the right thing,” he said.
Scheer said Liberal MPs should push for new leadership so that the party can “rehabilitate its very tarnished image.”
Asked if it would be prudent for Trudeau and Morneau to resign while the country is in the grips of a pandemic, Scheer said their departures might actually improve the COVID-19 response because of what he called problems with the programs Ottawa has enacted to deal with the pandemic’s social and economic effects.
He said if the two men won’t go on their own, Liberal backbenchers should stage a caucus revolt to force them out.
“Liberal MPs have a choice to make. Are they prepared to sacrifice their integrity to protect a leader that is under investigation? If Liberals refuse to act, if they refuse to do anything, then they are implicitly approving of that behaviour,” he said.
But Scheer said he’s not prepared to trigger an election over this scandal.
He said Parliament is on a summer recess and there’s no mechanism to defeat the government and prompt an election when the Commons isn’t sitting.
He said it will be up to the next Conservative leader to decide how to proceed on that front. Scheer will be replaced at the end of August.
Watch: Andrew Scheer says Trudeau, Morneau should step aside
The weeks-long scandal — the botched partnership between Ottawa and WE to administer student grants, the conflict-of-interest allegations, the revelation that Trudeau’s mother and brother were paid $300,000 in speaking fees by WE and news that Morneau’s daughter also works for the charity — has had an impact on the charitable organization itself.
At least three major corporate partners have announced that they will be reviewing their relationship with WE Charity, which also has faced questions about its complex organizational structure and its Toronto-area real estate holdings.
U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic Airways said Friday it has “temporarily paused” its funding arrangement with WE.
Virgin, whose website refers to WE as its “main charity partner,” says it has halted payments after contributing more than $10 million to the organization since 2010.
“We’re aware of reports relating to WE Charity and WE Day speaker payments,” the airline said in a statement.
RBC Royal Bank, Canada’s largest bank, said it is “reassessing the programs we’ve been delivering with WE to support young Canadians over the past several years.”
“Foundational to all our relationships, RBC expects our partners to conduct their business in accordance with our values, policies and practices,” a spokesperson for the bank said.
The Globe and Mail also reported that Telus, a major telecommunications company, will stop providing funds to WE for WE Day events.
“Telus and WE mutually agreed to terminate our sponsorship, which was originally supposed to expire in 2022,” the company told the newspaper.
Scheer said Conservatives want to know if other members of Trudeau’s cabinet have had ties to the WE Charity or if they’ve been treated to complimentary trips to see WE projects like Morneau.
He said they want to know if Trudeau has any “last-minute confessions” to make ahead of his finance committee appearance — like Morneau’s revelation that he failed to repay WE for $41,000 in travel-related expenses in 2017.
Scheer said he also wants cabinet ministers to come clean about what they knew about the personal ties between Trudeau and Morneau and the WE Charity.
Asked Friday if he knew about the Trudeau and Morneau family links to the charity when approving the $912 million summer student grants agreement, Families Minister Ahmed Hussen said he wouldn’t discuss cabinet conversations.
He wouldn’t answer when pressed to say whether he and his cabinet colleagues understood just how closely linked the PM and the finance minister were with the charity picked to connect students with volunteer opportunities.
Scheer said it’s inappropriate for Morneau and Trudeau to blame Youth Minister Bardish Chagger and bureaucrats for the unfolding scandal. Trudeau has said it was public servants who first recommended WE for the deal because of its nationwide network. Morneau told the finance committee that it was Chagger who brought the WE Charity contract to cabinet, and that she was the one who signed off on the plan before seeking approval from other ministers.
“This whole scandal reeks of corruption at the highest level,” Scheer said.
Watch: Cabinet ministers back Trudeau and Morneau
Hussen and Middle Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier defended Morneau at a child care announcement in Ottawa today. They said they have complete confidence in Morneau and believe he should stay on finance minister.
“Minister Morneau has apologized and has been transparent since this situation [started] and I will continue to have full confidence in him,” Fortier said.
Hussen said Morneau has invested in people and has grown program spending to help parents through the Canada Child Benefit.
“Those are the kind of things that keep me working and continuing to have faith in Finance Minister Morneau,” Hussen said.
Watch: Ahmed Hussen says WE Charity scandal is ‘unfortunate’
Health Minister Patty Hajdu also said Friday that she has confidence in Morneau and praised what she called his speedy fiscal response to the pandemic.
The federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, already has said he will investigate Morneau and Trudeau after they failed to recuse themselves from cabinet talks about the WE deal. The Conservatives also have asked the commissioner to launch a second probe into Morneau’s WE-paid travel to Ecuador and Kenya.