Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez did not know as he testified to the House of Commons ethics committee on events surrounding the WE Charity scandal.
Among Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's many missteps, perhaps the most notable is the ongoing WE Charity scandal. Early last year, Trudeau awarded a contract to WE Charity, putting them in charge of administering the $912 million Canada Student Summer Grant program. The charity had close ties to the Trudeau family, leading many to believe that the prime minister had given them preferential treatment, thus violating the Conflict of Interest Act.
The committee had expected to hear from director of policy to the prime minister, Rick Theis, however in a sudden change of plans on Sunday, Rodriguez informed them that he would "attend the meeting on behalf of the government." The swap puzzled many, since Rodriguez had no direct connection to the WE Charity scandal.
In the ensuing meeting, Rodriguez was asked questions regarding the scandal. As the conversation progressed, the committee became frustrated by Rodriguez's lack of answers. When asked, for example, "How much in expenses was the WE organization told that they could incur on the 5th of May", Rodriguez replied by saying "Nothing... I don't know... I think it's zero, but I'm sure those question were asked in different other committees". The latter half of this response was used multiple times when answering even the most basic of questions.
The Liberals defended their personnel choice, stating that they were "simply following a precedent set by Stephen Harper's former Conservative government, which refused to let ministerial staff testify at committees in 2010."
Conservative MP Michael Barrett is one of many members of government pushing back against the prime minister's choice to send Rodriguez, stating that "Canadians deserve accountability on the Trudeau Liberals' WE Scandal".
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