Before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament the finance committee had requested all documents related to the Liberal government’s decision to task WE Charity — which has ties to the Trudeau family and members of his government — with running a $900 million student grant program.
The House of Commons will return Sept. 23. When it does, the Trudeau government will deliver its speech from the throne before facing questions about the contents of those documents in a revived Parliament.
Thousands of pages of internal government records related to the We Charity contract were released Monday evening. CBC News has scoured the contents. Below are some of the highlights.
April 20 email from deputy minister for finance:
An April 20 email from assistant deputy minister for finance Michelle Kovacevic talks about the broader student aid package. The message reveals the program wasn’t developing with much efficiency.
“There has been a lot of back and forth on a student package, as you well know, and PMO has been weighing in on a version we shared with our minister on Saturday,” Kovacevic wrote.
“The Canada Student Service Grant — bit of a shit show and the way it is positioned right now is not exactly how we will go forward, there is positive communication with WE to be a partner here and discussions are encouraging on that front. (but just discussions, no agreement),” she wrote in the email.
April 19 email from Rachel Wernick to WE Charity:
Rachel Wernick, an assistant deputy minister at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), told a parliamentary committee that she reached out to WE Charity on April 19 for the first time. She said the organization had come up in discussions between officials from the Finance Ministry and ESDC. This was the first time she communicated with WE Charity about them becoming a partner, she told the committee.
“I am sorry for the ‘out of the blue’ email on a Sunday morning. As you know there is a lot of quick work going on to support emergency and special measures in the current context. I wondered if you would have a bit of time today to indulge me a quick conversation on something we are working on that might be of interest to WE,” Wernick said in the email dated April 19.
A reply from Craig Kielburger, WE Charity’s co-founder, says he is happy to chat; he sets a time to talk later that day.
Thousands of newly released documents are shedding new light on the WE Charity controversy. They were released just hours after the PM prorogued Parliament until September.
May 7 email from deputy minister for finance to Wernick:
Central to the accusations of a conflict of interest in the Liberal government’s decision to give WE Charity a $43 million contract to run a $900 million student grant program, was that Trudeau, outgoing finance minister Bill Morneau and their families had close ties with the organization.
In an email to senior assistant deputy minister Wernick, deputy minister for finance Kovacevic says her “mino,” taken to mean Bill Morneau’s office, is connecting directly with WE Charity.
“We is connecting with my mino (they are besties). — I don’t want my guys to get ahead of you and have told them that they should tell WE that you are Canada’s point of contact,” she said.
WE Charity thanks Youth Minister Bardish Chagger
Craig Kielburger sent an email to Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger on April 22, three days after WE Charity was first approached about the possibility of partnering with the Liberal government on the student grant program.
In that email, Kielburger thanks Chagger for listening to the charity’s proposal for youth entrepreneurship programs, which was later rejected. He then goes on to thank the minister for her efforts to connect Kielburger’s team with key officials.
“We appreciate your thoughtful offer to connect us with relevant members of your ministry,” Kielburger said. “Our weekend team has also been hard at work to adapt your suggestion of a second stream focused on a summer service opportunity.”
Cozy relationships between WE Charity, Liberals:
Trudeau’s mother Margaret, his wife Sophie Grégoire and his brother Alexandre all have working relationships with WE Charity. Sophie Grégoire’s relationship, Trudeau says, has been vetted by Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion.
These relationships have been central to the accusations of a conflict of interest between WE Charity and Trudeau’s family and close associates.
The trove of emails reveals the tone in some of the communications between WE Charity and the Liberal government.
An email from Marc Kielburger to Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, dated April 13 saw the WE Charity co-founder thank Telford “for all that you and the prime minister do.”
Another email from Marc’s brother Craig to outgoing finance minister Bill Morneau dated April 26 thanks Morneau saying, “It was incredibly thoughtful of you to call.”
An email from Craig to Morneau four days earlier opens informally beginning: “Hi Bill, I hope that you’re doing well during times of enormous work volumes.”