(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

How Conservative leadership hopefuls would address the WE scandal if they win

Party members are now voting for his replacement with the winner to be announced in late August

Conservative MPs said Friday their party doesn’t want to bring down the government over the latest ethics scandal ensnaring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Current leader Andrew Scheer is in his final weeks in the job.

Party members are now voting for his replacement with the winner to be announced in late August.

Meanwhile, the issue is not going away.

The ethics commissioner has been called in to see if Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law in awarding a multimillion-dollar contract to the WE organization, given Trudeau’s long-standing family ties to the organization.

The commissioner is also being asked to probe Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s ties as well — one of the minister’s daughters works for the organization.

The Liberals, and WE, have said there is no direct link between the awarding of the contract to run the $900 million Canada Student Services Grant program and the organization’s connections to the Trudeaus.

ALSO READ: Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

The Conservatives also say that revelations Trudeau family members have been paid by WE for speaking engagements in the past elevates the seriousness of the matter. The party says the police should investigate for possible fraud.

Trudeau himself was never paid.

Both ethics and criminal investigations take time.

The investigation by the ethics commissioner into the SNC-Lavalin affair was requested in February 2019 and completed in August of that year.

The Senate expenses scandal first broke in 2012 and it took two years for criminal charges related to fraud to surface in that case. Former Conservative senator Mike Duffy was acquitted on all of them in April 2016.

So, given that the Opposition Conservatives will have a new boss while the WE story likely continues to percolate, how will Scheer’s replacement seek to proceed?

The Canadian Press asked all four leadership candidates how they would deal with the scandal.

Leslyn Lewis:

The Toronto lawyer said the ethics commissioner has proven himself capable in the past of getting to the bottom of Trudeau’s scandals and she trusts him to do that job here as well.

“The problem is that every time the ethics commissioner proves Trudeau has broken the rules, he just shrugs and moves on,” Lewis said in a statement.

“The only way to hold Justin Trudeau accountable is for voters to vote him out. I look forward to leading the charge and replacing him with an honest and ethical government.”

Lewis does not have a seat in the House of Commons. If she wins, she would have to appoint someone to be the parliamentary leader until she could get elected.

Peter MacKay:

MacKay’s wife, Nazanin Afshin Jam, a human rights activist, has spoken at WE events. His campaign says she has never taken money from the organization.

In an interview, MacKay said the WE controversy raises questions about the need to broaden and strengthen the power of the ethics commissioner, so if there’s a finding a politician broke conflict of interest law, they could actually be penalized.

He also suggested that a stronger ethics screen might be required for whomever is prime minister to ensure there can be no blurring of lines between a prime minister’s private life and public role.

In the meantime, MacKay, a former justice minister, said he thinks a criminal investigation into the WE contract could be warranted under Section 122 of the Criminal Code, which is breach of trust involving government officials.

The purpose of the section is to ensure government officials do not abuse their authority or their office, MacKay said.

By being in the cabinet room when the decision was made, knowing their family connection to WE, is a very serious thing, MacKay said.

“It’s essential we keep confidence in public office holders,” MacKay said. “This undermines that.”

While it is the kind of issue that could result in a motion of non-confidence in the Liberal government, it’s not that simple, MacKay said.

“We can’t lose sight of the bigger picture here which is the economic and health crisis that still rages on as a result of COVID-19,” he said.

“This is going to undermine severely the prime minister’s legitimacy and ability to govern throughout this period.”

MacKay also does not have a seat in the House of Commons. What levers of parliamentary power he might want pulled would have to be done by someone else.

Erin O’Toole:

O’Toole has suggested the scandal brings with it the threat of a fall election.

When his campaign was asked whether he would seek to topple the government over it, a spokesperson did not directly answer the question, repeating only that they think the chances of a fall election are higher.

O’Toole supports his party’s call for a criminal investigation. In an email, campaign spokesperson Melanie Paradis said that given O’Toole already has a seat in the House of Commons, he would be ready take on Trudeau on this issue from “day one.”

“As leader, Erin will stand up for Canadians and get to the bottom of this corruption,” she said. His campaign did not say how he would do that.

O’Toole’s children have also attended WE events and he has spoken at one in his riding. His campaign said his family has never financially benefited from WE.

Derek Sloan:

Sloan is also a sitting MP. His campaign did not return two requests for comment on what he would do to address the issue.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of Canadafederal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
Kootenay-Columbia MP pans federal budget

Conservative Rob Morrison says budget doesn’t have a plan for long-term spending priorities

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
Man arrested in incident at Canada-U.S. border near Roosville

A man who crossed the border illegally was apprehended by U.S. officials

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

The golf course in Elkford would need to be re-zoned to allow for 10 camping sites. (Image courtesy of District of Elkford)
Elkford to consider allowing campsites at golf course

The district has expressed support for 10 campground spaces at the golf course

Most Read