Just like Trudeau’s Liberals, Harper’s Conservatives also managed financial scandals

Disassembling and understanding the WE Charity disgrace is like reading a Thomas Pynchon novel … the plot is multifaceted and compels density in words. Even if the storyline is based on simplistic corruption, Canadian viewers of all political persuasions are struggling to understand the real story behind WE’s political connections and financial mismanagements.      

The backstory is simple, but the morals guiding the federal government to contract the WE Charity to administer the proposed Canada Student Grant program are dubious. A wonderful idea to support Canadian students continues to appear like a scam as more developments arise.

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The WE Charity paid Justin Trudeau’s mother and one of his brothers in surplus of $300,000. Ex-Financial Minister Bill Morneau accepted travel expenses and WE-sponsored vacations, with all expenses covered.

Morneau’s daughters were also involved with the notorious charity, where Sophie Grégoire Trudeau acted as a high-ranking volunteer.

At the surface, the WE scandal is so obvious, the story appears like a terrible Murder She Wrote plot.

But the scandal also has complexities involving cash connections. Canadians might never realize the full extent of the damages created by the WE scandal. Hopefully, at the least some of the questions regarding this disastrous program meant to assist students will be answered soon.

Meanwhile, the government’s response to the pandemic has provided a concoction of good policies and idealistic intentions.

The Grits helped many Canadians in financial difficulty this year, when they introduced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) after the pandemic swept the country. The federal government announced they would lengthen CERB by one month and revamp EI to assist people who need financial assistance during the COVID-19 tragedy distressing the world.

The revised EI plan from Liberals incorporated enhanced flexibility on the work hours considered essential to received EI, permitting those in financial stress to be eligible for a one-year period.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough announced the good news on EI and CERB at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, August 20.

Admittedly, the program has an admittingly hefty price tag of $37 billion, but this will help Canadians, so good on the Liberals.

Nevertheless, WE-gate still threatens the Liberal’s celebratory picnic.

WE could’ve been another Liberal success, but the money meant to fund grant setups for students travelled in wrong directions. News agencies across the world have noticed.   

“Over C$900m ($679m, £519m) was originally earmarked for the program, designed to connect post-secondary students to volunteer opportunities – for which they would later receive a grant to make up for summer job prospects that had disappeared during the pandemic,” the BBC reported on August 20 – the same day when Freeland and Qualtrough made their joint announcement on EI and CERB.

Yet, Conservatives themselves are no strangers to financial scandals.

Before the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, senior cabinet minister Tony Clement personally allocated a $50 million legacy fund to pay for infrastructure in his Muskoka riding. Municipalities a great distance from the summit’s location were given thousands for sidewalk improvements. An expensive gazebo costing nearly $100,000 in the hamlet of Orrville, several kilometres away from the summit, was constructed with Clement’s cash gifts.

Ironically, Clement later became the president of the Treasury Board – the department overseeing government expenditures.

During the Harper regime, three Conservative senators; Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin; were suspended for allegations over inappropriate expense claims.

Harper’s office became involved with the scandal when Chief of Staff Nigel Wright was exposed for writing a $90,000 cheque to cover Duffy’s problematic expenses.    

Duffy reimbursed the federal government with $90,172 in March 2013, before resigning from the Conservative caucus in May 2013 to become an independent senator.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Canada procurement was a defence project started by the Chretien Liberals in 1997, but spearheaded by Harper’s Conservatives, who announced they were purchasing the aircraft in 2010. 

However, the program under the Conservatives became another Tory-led financial disaster.

The Auditor General of Canada report released in April 2012 depicted the government’s failures to secure the aircraft to replace the RCAF’s elderly CF-18 Hornets as a fiasco.     

Harper's Conservatives said they were procuring 65 F-35s to replace the 80 McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornets for $16 million (supplementary outlays included) with deliveries prearranged for 2016.    

The government was prepared to sign a sole-sourced, untendered contract with Lockheed Martin. The Conservatives refused to provide the Canadian public with a detailed costing of the procurement. In the end, the Conservatives forced a no-confidence vote on March 25, 2011.

Trudeau’s victory in October 2015 came in part, because the Liberals promised they wouldn’t buy the overpriced F-35s and would consider cheaper alternatives to better fit Canada’s defence requirements.