Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his chief of staff, Katie Telford, faced a grilling from MPs today probing the federal government’s decision to task WE Charity with running a $900 million student grant program.
It was a rare appearance by a prime minister before a parliamentary committee and it came in the midst of a damaging controversy for the Liberal government.
Trudeau was scheduled to appear for one hour but ended up testifying for 90 minutes in a session that included some heated moments — and some levity, when a power outage knocked committee chair Wayne Easter out of the proceedings.
Here are the key exchanges.
Trudeau says he learned of WE decision on May 8
Trudeau said for the first time that he pulled the proposal to partner with WE Charity for the student grant program from the cabinet agenda on May 8 because he wanted to do more work to ensure the program was being rolled out the right way.
Conservative MP: Cabinet must be accountable
Conservative MP Michael Barrett told Trudeau that the responsibility for the decision to award the student grant program to WE Charity lies with cabinet and someone must be held accountable.
When the power goes out, grab the chair
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre pushed the prime minister to say how much money has been paid by WE Charity to Margaret Trudeau, then took on chairing the committee when Easter’s power went out — and pressed the PM again.
NDP’s Angus: PM’s judgment ‘hurt students’
NDP MP Charlie Angus called the WE Charity controversy an “unnecessary scandal” and said that the grant program has fallen apart because of Trudeau’s poor judgment. The controversy has “derailed so much good work and hurt students,” the Ontario MP said.
Cooper presses chief of staff over PM’s pushback claim
Conservative MP Michael Cooper grilled Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, on the prime minister’s claim that he “pushed back” on the proposal to task WE Charity with administering the student grant program.
Telford, Poilievre spar on timeline
Poilievre questioned Telford about the timing of a May 5 call between WE and the Prime Minister’s Office, two weeks before the plan went to cabinet — and also the same day that WE was told it could start counting expenses for administering the student grant program. WE co-founder Marc Kielburger testified earlier this week that WE at this point was moving ahead with the project.
Why didn’t PM know until May 8?
Green MP Elizabeth May asked Telford why no one told Trudeau about the proposal to involve a third-party service provider in the student grant program until it was about to be presented at the cabinet table.