Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday July 11, 2020
PM’s mother Margaret and brother Alexandre were both paid to speak at WE Charity events
In a response to an inquiry from CBC News, WE Charity has provided details of the speaking fees paid to both individuals for their participation at events between 2016 and 2020.
Both Margaret and Alexandre are registered with the Speakers’ Spotlight Bureau, which arranges appearances for clients in exchange for negotiated fees.
Margaret spoke at approximately 28 events and received honoraria amounting to $250,000. Alexandre spoke at eight events and received approximately $32,000.
Prime Minister Trudeau and his government have been under fire since announcing on June 25 they were awarding a $19.5 million sole-source contract to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant, a $912 million program offering grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 to post-secondary students in return for supervised volunteer hours.
WE Charity said last week it was pulling out of administering CSSG, citing the ongoing controversy surrounding it and the government’s decision to give the sole-source contract to WE. Prime Minister Trudeau said the federal government would take over the program.
News of the payments to two members of Trudeau’s family seems to contradict WE Charity’s earlier claim that it had “never paid an honorarium” to Margaret Trudeau.
The federal ethics commissioner is investigating the WE contract to administer the volunteer grant, after Conservative and NDP MPs contacted the office raising concerns about the relationship between the charity and the prime minister’s family.
This evening, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that — as CTV News first reported — the prime minister’s spouse, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, “received $1,500” for participating in a WE event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.
“The prime minister has never received payment for any events with WE,” the PMO said.
Trudeau admitted to reporters earlier this week that he did not recuse himself from cabinet discussions that led to the decision to award the contract to WE Charity.
CBC News contacted WE Charity to clarify the terms under which the prime minister and members of his family had appeared at past WE Day events.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Madame Margaret Trudeau have participated in WE Charity events and programs over the years,” a WE spokesperson told CBC News late in the evening on June 25.
“The charity has never paid an honorarium to these individuals for their involvement in these programs and events.”
The charity said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s involvement as an “ambassador and ally” has been “entirely on a volunteer basis and travel expenses related to this involvement were paid for by WE Charity.”
On Thursday, WE Charity emailed CBC News, saying the organization wanted to reach out “proactively” to “provide you with some updated information.”
Less than an hour after the WE statement went out Thursday, Canadaland reported on its website that it had records showing Speakers’ Spotlight had invoiced Free the Children (the not-for-profit arm of WE, now called WE Charity) directly for some of Margaret Trudeau’s speaker’s fees — and had asked WE about the discrepancy. (CBC)