OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer asked Liberal party members Friday to push for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s resignation for his role in a cancelled $912-million government deal involving the WE Charity.
Scheer said new layers to the controversy, fuelled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s admission this week that he made a $41,000 “mistake” when he accepted free WE-sponsored travel to Ecuador in 2017, don’t reflect highly on Trudeau.
It “reeks of corruption at the highest level of government,” the outgoing Conservative leader told reporters in Regina.
“Freeing themselves of someone like Justin Trudeau, who cannot hold Bill Morneau to a higher standard than himself may allow that party to rehabilitate its very tarnished image.”
Trudeau and Morneau are both under investigation by the federal ethics commissioner for their roles in the controversial deal.
Watch: Morneau admits to $41,000 ‘mistake’ in unpaid WE travel expenses. Story continues below.
This isn’t the first federal ethics probe for either the prime minister or finance minister.
Despite saying he learned his lesson at the time, Trudeau is being investigated for potentially breaching the same section of the Act he was found to have violated in the 2017 report.
Last year, Trudeau was found in violation of the Act again by seeking to influence the independent decision of his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in a criminal case involving Quebec engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.
Morneau paid a $200 fine after he failed to disclose a directorship in a corporation established in France that owns a villa in the southern part of that country.
Scheer said in the past, if ministers were found to have been guilty of breaking laws they would have been held accountable by the prime minister and would have been expected to resign.
“None of that has happened under Justin Trudeau,” he said.
The government previously tapped WE to administer a new $912-million program to establish grant and volunteer opportunities for students.
WE stood to earn $43.5 million from the deal, pending the successful administration of the program.
The deal became shrouded in additional controversy after Canadaland and CBC News reported the prime minister’s mother, a high-profile mental health advocate, received speaking honorariums totalling six-figures from WE for speeches between 2016-2020.
His brother has also received speaking fees from the charity.
Morneau’s family ties to the organization also drew scrutiny.
His two daughters have a relationship with the charity with one having been an unpaid speaker at WE events. The other is currently on contract work with the organization until the end of August.
He told the finance committee this week that his wife has also made two separate $50,000 donations to WE: one in April 2018, and the other in June this year.
Both Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from cabinet discussions related to the deal, as is required under the Conflict of Interest Act.
Scheer’s call for the prime minister’s resignation echoes a similar one he made last year at the onset of the SNC-Lavalin affair. The Conservative leader said he’s been consistent in his view that he doesn’t believe Trudeau “deserves to govern this country.”
Members of the Liberal caucus have a choice to make, Sheer said.
“They can send a signal to Canadians that they do not accept this type of corruption, they do not accept this type of behaviour.”
Because Liberal MPs voted in their first post-election meeting not to give themselves additional powers extended to them under the Reform Act, they do not have the authority to boot Trudeau as leader.
Scheer also acknowledged that his own playbook is limited, with a new leader expected to be announced late August.
Asked if Conservatives are ready to trigger an election over the WE controversy, Scheer was frank that it couldn’t happen until September at the earliest, given the current realities of Parliament.
The two House of Commons sittings are members of a Committee of the Whole on the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Scheer added that by September, when Parliament is expected to return, he will no longer lead the Conservative party.
The Conservative leadership race will end Aug. 21, when a new leader is expected to be announced after mail-in votes are tallied.
He added that in his discussions with party leaders, the idea of triggering an election over the WE controversy hasn’t come up.
The controversy will likely heat up more in the week to come with WE organization co-founders Marc and Craig Kielburger expected to appear as witnesses before the House finance committee Tuesday.
Trudeau has also accepted an invitation to appear as a witness to answer committee members’ questions, but it’s unclear when he will make his appearance.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Friday that a date has yet to be determined.
Note: HuffPost’s previous owner, AOL, sponsored and participated in WE Charity events and Free The Children trips.