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Trudeau’s Finance Minister Morneau Embroiled in WE Charity Scandal For Free Family Trips

Scrutiny of Justin Trudeau’s relationship with the WE Charity has graced headlines across Canada over the past month. Concerns arose about his and his family’s relationship to the WE Charity, which received an over $900 million dollar, sole-source government contract. The controversy has recently expanded to include Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In Short: WE Charity covered $41,366 in travel expenses for Finance Minister Morneau and his family across two 2017 trips – one to Kenya and one to Ecuador – until he repaid that amount in July 2020.

The day he repaid this amount, Minister Morneau was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary ethics commission investigating a different facet of his relationship to the WE Charity and whether he should have recused himself from involvement with the $900 million contract due to his own family links to the charity.

  • This will be Minister Morneau’s 3rd time under investigation from the Ethics Commission, the first of which he was fined $200 for, the second of which he was cleared of wrongdoing.

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Background: Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister and Member of Parliament for Toronto Center (where census data says the ‘median total income” for individuals was $30,987) incurred $41,366 in travel expenses through WE Charity covered trips.

The role these trips played in dictating Morneau’s stance on awarding the over $900 million contract to WE cannot be determined. Yet, according to a statement released by WE following the Morneau admission, it is clear the charity expected something in return for these trips.

“WE Charity extended the invitation to Nancy McCain and Bill Morneau because they are well-known philanthropists with a history of significant donations to international development programs.’

WE Charity’s press release
  • Morneau later admitted that his family had made two donations totalling $100,000 to the WE Charity in 2018 and 2020 to support their work.

Minister Morneau has paid back the money covered by WE Charity. Although some have criticized the timing, alleging the repayment and public acknowledgement only took place because the Minister was called to appear under oath.

  • Morneau claims this was oversight, that he did not receive any expense reports, and that not paying for the expenses personally was an “error”.

Continued Controversy: The recent controversy surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal and family relationship with the WE Charity has dominated headlines and will be further complicated by the Morneau revelations.


This is Morneau’s Third Ethics Investigation:

  • The first investigation focused on Morneau’s shareholdings in a corporation which owned a villa in southern France, a staffer for the Finance Minister blamed an administrative error. Morneau paid the ethics commissioner’s $200 fine and has promised to sell shares and donate profits to charity, which he claims to have since done.
  • The second investigation, from which Morneau was cleared, looked into the Minister and his fathers’ sales of shares in the Morneau Shepell firm in advance of a tax change which would have “raised taxes on the wealthiest one per cent”.

The Bottom Line: Morneau is under investigation from the Ethics Commissioner for the third time, due to accepting over $40,000 in travel expenses from the WE Charity. Minister Morneau has since repaid the money.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains under public scrutiny for his relationship with the WE Charity and is also facing his third ethics investigation.  
  • Whether this will have political implications remains to be seen. While the Trudeau government hit polling highs in the middle of its response to COVID-19, recent polling by Innovative Research found that the WE scandal is top of mind for Canadians currently.
Innovative Research Group

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