Canadian News Nov 25, 2020 5:04 PM EST

Government refuses to reveal how many WE documents were withheld from MPs

"No, I don’t have a number," Privy Council chief Ian Shugart told the Commons Finance Committee, despite also telling them that he "would provide the committee with as much information, as transparent as possible."

Government refuses to reveal how many WE documents were withheld from MPs
Noah David Alter Toronto
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The chief of the Privy Council refused to reveal Tuesday night how many documents related to WE Charity have been withheld from MPs, according to Blacklock's Reporter.

"No, I don’t have a number," Privy Council chief Ian Shugart told the Commons Finance Committee, despite also telling them that he "would provide the committee with as much information, as transparent as possible."

The Finance Committee has been attempting to obtain records related to the $43.5 million grant approved for WE Charity by the government since July, although the program was cancelled after it was revealed that the government had various conflicts of interest with the organization.

"How many pages of disclosures in the We Charity controversy have you determined to withhold or redact under the pretext of cabinet confidence?" Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre asked.

Shugart told Poilievre that the Privy Council's "internal rough estimate is that less than two-and-a-half percent of all the information provided to the committee is redacted on the basis of relevance, and about one percent was redacted because of cabinet confidentiality," figures which Poilievre said are "inconsistent with the information" he has.

Poilievre further questioned whether Shugart could specify an exact number of documents, which Shugart said he could not do.

NDP MP Peter Julian was not satisfied with Shugart's answer, telling him "what you’re indicating to us is disturbing, that the executive branch can basically go and turn its back on very clear committee direction." Julian further inquired with the Privy chief, asking "about one percent of documents were redacted according to cabinet confidences, so can you just confirm that’s about fifty pages?"

Shugart replied by claiming it "hadn’t occurred" to him "to do the arithmetic."

The government has already released 5,600 pages of documents related to WE Charity, revealing that the charity was suffering from layoffs and declining revenue when the government stepped in with the unusually massive grant. Commenting on the "colossal job" of blacking out so many pages, Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin said that censors must have "read those five thousand pages with a black marker, erasing one thing after another."

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