Justin Trudeau’s party counters opposition’s WE probe move with snap poll threat

Liberal Party has pitched the possibility of calling snap elections if the opposition goes ahead with an attempt to form a parliamentary body to examine potential corruption and conflict of interest related to the grant of a billion-dollar project to a charity with links to the PM and his family
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he takes part in a press conference in Ottawa on October 13.(AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he takes part in a press conference in Ottawa on October 13.(AP)
Published on Oct 20, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Toronto | By

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has pitched the possibility of calling snap polls if the opposition goes ahead with an attempt to form a parliamentary body to examine potential corruption and conflict of interest related to the grant of a billion-dollar project to a charity with links to the PM and his family.

The opposition’s motion seeking to form a 15-member committee is expected later this week. However, Trudeau’s party has warned that if the motion is passed, it could lead to early elections.

Pablo Rodriguez, leader of the government in the House of Commons, made this point in a letter to the leaders of the opposition parties, saying, “If passed, the proposal will raise serious questions about whether the House of Commons continues to have confidence in the government.”

Instead, he proposed to form a 12-member committee with a “the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the government’s spending in response to the pandemic”.

Unlike the committee proposed by the opposition, this one would have an equal number of Liberal Party members, even though the government has a minority status in the House.

Gérard Deltell, leader of the opposition Conservative Party in the House, criticised the government’s stance. He told the daily National Post, “To threaten to plunge the country into a general election while Canada is in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic, all because you want to avoid some tough questions, is simply reckless and irresponsible.”

The latest confrontation is over the opposition seeking to investigate the project related to student volunteerism granted during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic to WE Charity.

It later emerged that Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother had been paid thousands of Canadian dollars for appearances at events conducted by the organisation.

Trudeau later apologised for not recusing himself when the cabinet cleared the proposal. The grant was scrapped after the controversy erupted.

The Canadian PM also made an appearance before a parliamentary committee on this issue and is being investigated by the country’s conflict of interest and ethics commissioner.

The ruling party, meanwhile, is also against the opposition’s demand seeking details of fees paid to Trudeau’s family. In his letter, Rodriguez said, “We will continue to oppose efforts by the opposition to force private citizens, including the extended family of politicians, to divulge personal financial information. This demand goes too far.”

Canada, meanwhile, is seeing a peak in new coronavirus cases, though with a lower number of fatalities.

Rodriguez, however, used the argument of the renewed challenge to combat the virus to counter the opposition’s demand for the formation of a special committee. He said in Ottawa, “When you’re asking the government to concentrate all their efforts on what is requested by this committee instead of fighting the pandemic, or instead of being there for Canadian households, we think that it’s extremely irresponsible.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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