The New Democrats in Parliament on Monday wisely narrowed their search for more embarrassing details about WE Charity and the cosy relationship it once enjoyed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The opposition parties should now turn their attention to the larger issue of the proliferating government spending programs that are currently running this country deeper into debt.
The government in recent weeks won Parliament’s approval for close to $40 billion in additional spending over the next two years to help ease the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been spreading through Canada since March. This fresh torrent of spending came on top of the billions already approved in the spring and summer for the emergency wage subsidy, the emergency business account, the emergency response benefit and other quickly conceived spending programs.
When this much public money is suddenly sprayed across the country, it is highly likely that some of it is being wasted. It is far from certain that it is achieving the stated purpose of sustaining the Canadian economy. It is within the realm of possibility, given the Liberal party’s history of past missteps, including the infamous sponsorship scandal in Quebec, that this flash flood of public funds is not all reaching its intended targets.
It is certain that the federal spending will at some point hit a ceiling. That ceiling will be constructed by lenders — banks, financial institutions and ratings agencies — who have to decide each day whether Canadian government bonds are a good investment. When that point is reached, the spending taps will have to be turned off.
Mr. Trudeau’s is acting as if he believes no such day will ever come. He got rid of Bill Morneau, the finance minister who knew it would come. When it does come, Canadians will wish their opposition parties had paid more attention this year to where the money was going.
In this context, the role of WE Charity might not be worth the hours of parliamentary attention that continues to be lavished on it.
The government on June 23 announced a student services grant program to pay up to $5,000 to students engaged in volunteer service. WE Charity, a favourite agency of Mr. Trudeau’s, was hastily hired to recruit the students and pay them $912 million of government grants, though no other agency had been asked about doing the work. Mr. Trudeau had often appeared at WE Charity events, and his mother and his brother had been paid for appearing at them.
The purpose of the student services program was far from clear. The reasons for putting it in the hands of WE Charity were also obscure. The contract was cancelled and the program dropped on July 3, 10 days after it was announced, but not before inquiries were launched by the ethics commissioner and by the Commons committees on finance and government operations.
There is little reason to expect valuable information is yet to be unearthed by sifting through more WE Charity documents. By scrapping the program and throwing the charity under the bus, the government has already admitted it should never have been launched in the first place.
WE Charity makes an easy target for criticism, but it is not costing Canadians a red cent. The opposition parties should now roll up their sleeves and find out where all the other money is going.