September 1st, 2020
Documents reveal Liberal minister drove WE agenda for government
OTTAWA –Internal government documents reveal that Liberal minister Bardish Chagger played a key role in putting WE Charity in the driver’s seat of the now failed student service grant program worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The documents contradict the Liberals’ claim from the beginning of this scandal, that the choice of WE Charity came from the public service. In fact, internal government documents show it was a key meeting held on April 17 between Craig Kielburger and Minister Chagger that got the whole process moving.
“The April 17 meeting between Bardish Chagger and Craig Kielburger changed everything,” said NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus. “After that meeting, it became all about WE. In the documents, we see Minister Chagger giving a group close to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister the inside track on an agreement worth millions. This is about as Liberal of a scandal as you get.”
Minister Chagger initially denied meeting with WE and has gone out of her way to portray the April 17 meeting as a mere listening exercise but the documents show otherwise. They reveal a dramatic change in the government approach to the service grant following the meeting between Chagger and Kielburger.
Before this meeting, WE was barely on the public service’s radar. After the meeting, plans by the public service to contact other organizations were scrapped and WE started getting exclusive briefings and meetings with all the senior officials working on what was to be called the CSSG.
“After being told by WE that Minister Chagger suggested they work together, the public service quickly put all their focus on WE. Soon, they became the only group involved in planning, developing, and creating what became the CSSG. WE’s proposals merged into departmental plans until they were one and the same,” said Angus. “No wonder the minister tried to keep the details of this meeting secret. It blows their whole position out of the water.”
Angus says Chagger needs to explain why she has tried to cover up her role in moving WE into this key position.
“It’s shocking that a Minister would try to misdirect Canadians from knowing what really happened,” said Angus. “What else is she hiding? Was she trying to protect the Prime Minister? Did she put this into motion on her own or was she directed to by others in the Prime Minister’s Office?”