Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest version of his role in his cabinet’s approval of a $500-million sole-sourced contract to the WE Charity is an interesting one.
But it doesn’t help him in his ongoing conflict of interest controversy about how the contract was approved.
According to his testimony at the Commons finance committee Thursday, Trudeau insists he not only didn’t rush the now-cancelled contract to pay student volunteers below minimum wages through cabinet, he slowed it down.
This by sending the issue back for further consideration when it first came to cabinet for approval on May 8.
According to his version of events, Trudeau was like Horatio at the Bridge, heroically slowing down advancing armies of public servants, relentlessly pressing for speedy cabinet approval of the WE contract.
“I actually slowed it down, pushed back on it, to try and make sure that everything was done exactly right,” Trudeau testified. “Because I knew there would be questions asked because of the links to my family.”
Trudeau’s acknowledgement that he realized in advance the WE contract would be controversial “because I knew there would be questions asked because of the links to my family” makes even more inexplicable his decision to participate in the May 22 cabinet meeting where the deal was approved.
This after the public service had endorsed it a second time on May 21.
This establishes that Trudeau knew before he did it that his approval of the contract at the May 22 cabinet meeting would put him into a perceived conflict of interest, and we went ahead and did it anyway.
To defend his actions, Trudeau testified in French, as reported by the CBC: “I was not in a position of conflict of interest. I apologized because of the perception (over) ties with my family. I should have recused myself.”
This gets Trudeau deeper into the weeds given that, after he was convicted the first time of breaking the Conflict of Interest Act in the Aga Khan affair, he publicly promised that, in future, “we will be proactively working with the office of the (ethics) commissioner to ensure that there is no conflict of interest, no appearance of conflict of interest.”
Obviously, that lesson didn’t take for Trudeau.