When did Justin Trudeau know about the WE partnership?

Something in the PM’s official itinerary may have put Justin Trudeau’s testimony on the WE scandal in question.

Justin Trudeau testified before the House Standing Committee on Finance yesterday. Trudeau and his Chief of Staff Katie Telford helped committee members contruct a timeline for the conception, execution, and shelving of the Canada Student Service Grant — the program the Trudeau government was set to deploy in partnership with the WE group and the Kielburgers.

I outlined key dates of timeline in my newsletter this morning (subscribe below!)

Here is a concise summary of those dates:

April 22nd – Government of Canada announces the Canada Summer Service Grant

May 4th – Sophie Gregoire Trudeau launches new podcast with the wife of Craig Kielburger, Leysa Cerswell Kielburger.

May 5th – The COVID cabinet committee considers and approves of the program and the partnership with the WE group. WE and its organization were able to start charging eligible expenses to the government of Canada on this date.

May 8th – Justin Trudeau says he found out about the WE affiliation with the CSSG and ‘pushed back’ given that his family had been closely involved with WE. (Trudeau told the committee he knew his family was receiving money from WE but didn’t know how much)

May 22nd – The cabinet approves the CSSG-WE group scheme.

June 23rd – The WE group and the Government of Canada sign the contribution agreement (sole-source contract). The contract covers expenses back to May 5th.

June 25th – Government makes the partnership public.

Let’s take a look at Justin Trudeau’s itinerary.

According to the Prime Minister’s own itinerary, on May 5th he was scheduled to attend the COVID committee. We know that the cabinet committee met on this date and approved the WE partnership according to the Trudeau/Telford testimony. Is this the cabinet committee or the general House of Commons committee? UPDATE: we’ve been informed that this refers to the House committee.

Bill Morneau sits on the COVID cabinet committee. WE paid for two of his trips to Africa and the Amazon. He should have been aware of the appearence of a conflict of interest before approving the WE partnership on May 5th.

Bill Morneau testifies before the Standing Committee on Finance (FINA)

The question remains, did Justin Trudeau know about the WE group partnership before May 8th when he said he pushed back? The cabinet committee approved the partnership on May 5th and presumably would not have if Trudeau was having doubts about the ‘appearence’ of conflict of interest as he testified. Did he have doubts on May 8th or sooner? When did he know about the proposed WE partnership?

Regardless, those doubts seem to be moot anyway as the whole of cabinet approved the Government of Canada/WE group partnership on June 23rd. Trudeau/Telford say that the decision was ‘binary’: help the students and get into bed with WE, or let students go without.

Will Justin Trudeau be recalled to committee? Will committee members be satisfied with Justin Trudeau’s testimony on the WE scandal?

Katie Telford testifies on the WE scandal before the Standing Committee on Finance (FINA)

Outrageous: Seamus O’Regan is Canada’s next Natural Resources Minister

The appointment of Seamus O’Regan as Canada’s next Natural Resources Minister shows that Justin Trudeau has clearly not learned his lesson from the 43rd general election.

Electors returned zero seats to Trudeau in both Alberta and Saskatchewan when all the votes were counted on October 21st.

These two prairie provinces are blessed by oil and gas but are desperately frustrated by their inability to get their resources to market.

Seamus O’Regan is best known for having a morning show on CTV, and and for being in Justin Trudeau’s wedding party.

So it stood to reason that O’Regan would be either a close advisor or something more formal when Trudeau won the 2015 election and O’Regan won his seat in St. John’s South—Mount Pearl.

Seamus O’Regan Natural Resources Minister

Enter Seamus O’Regan

As Veterans Affairs Minister, O’Regan tried to relate to his stakeholders by comparing the sunsetting of his own career as a broadcaster to the challenges faced by active military service personal as they transition to civilian life.

Not great.

But Justin Trudeau indicated that veterans aren’t on his priority list anyway as he famously remarked to a veterans that his brothers and sisters are “asking for more than we are able to give“. So Seamus coasted until the Trudeau inner circle had another problem to solve.

When Gerald Butts shuffled Jody Wilson-Reybould out of Justice where she was making too much trouble for Trudeau’s principle secretary, she was moved to the Indigenous Services ministry. Butts argued argued that the best person should take over the file. Wilson-Reybould flatly refused the position.

Enter Seamus O’Regan.

O’Regan’s tenure at Indigenous Services was marked by gross insentivity, tweeting a glamour shot of himself being pensive about reconciliation next to a passenger of his Challenger private jet.

Seamus O’Regan later deleted the tweet

The Trudeau government has not made reconciliation with First Nations a priority. While they’ve paid a lot of lip service to the issues and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, O’Regan fights compensation for First Nations childrens services in court.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have found themselves in a polarized position against Justin Trudeau and his backers in the rest of Canada. The prime minister’s failure to build pipelines and his failure to negotiate right-of-passage to tidewater for Canada’s energy infrastructure are problems that are worse enough. He also insists that his ultimate goal is to ‘phase out’ the oilsands. This attitude is fomenting Western alienation.

Will Justin Trudeau’s government be humbled by being shut-out in these two Western provinces? Will Trudeau hold out a fig-leaf and appoint a Minister of Natural Resources that will hit the ground running and fight for Canadian energy workers?

Enter Seamus O’Regan.

At Natural Resources, Trudeau has appointed O’Regan to take over one the prime minister’s most neglected files. Predictably, Conservatives and media observers have reacted with shock and exasperation.

Michelle Rempel reacts to Seamus O’Regan’s appointment as Natural Resources Minister
The National Post’s Chris Selley is shocked by the O’Regan news

Canada’s energy workers will be the most affected by the shuffle of O’Regan to Natural Resources. They are already indicating that the appointment does not give them much confidence.

A western geologist and exploration worker weighs in

Justin Trudeau views the oil and gas sector in opposition to his agenda of renewable energy and reduced carbon emissions. Yet, the sector makes up for 15% of Canada’s GDP and spins off hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary jobs. Meanwhile, Canadian innovation continues to drive down the CO2 emissions produced from the extraction of oil from Canada’s bituminous sands.

Trudeau would not be so cavalier and neglectful of carbon-intensive industries such as auto-making in southern Ontario and cement production in the Gaspé region of Quebec.

With Seamus O’Regan’s appointment as Minister of Natural Resources, Justin Trudeau is presiding over more-and-more division among Canada’s provinces.

François-Philippe Champagne is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs

According to a well-placed leak to CBC News, Canadians have learned that François-Philippe Champagne will be Canada’s 14th Minister of Foreign Affairs, succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the role at Global Affairs Canada.

Champagne was most recently the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities but held the role of Trade Minister just last year in 2018. The promotion to Foreign Affairs Minister is a logical career-track progression for the Minister.

François-Philippe Champagne meets Speaker Inara Murniece of the Latvian Parliament

Canada’s foreign affairs challenges

Champagne will be Canada’s principle international-facing Minister on a number of difficult files.

China’s Canadian hostages and Hong Kong

Perhaps most pressing of issues is the detention of two Canadians by the Chinese government. This came as retaliation for Canada’s intent to fulfill an American extradition request for Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Huawei.

The Chinese government has held Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for over 340 days and the two have endured regular interrogation and stress-induction methods at the hands of their PRC captors.

Hong Kong remains a hotspot and a growing concern for Canada. Over half a million Canadians trace their roots back to Hong Kong and about 200,000 were born in the former British colony. The rule of law is being eroded every day for its residents as China starts exerting its influence and control.

François-Philippe Champagne must speak confidently for Canadians without encumbrance on Hong Kong and for the rights of Hong Kongers and the freedoms that they enjoy.

Canada-US relations is an ongoing dance

Champagne is now in charge of managing the Canada-US bilateral relationship. Canada has been without an ambassador in Washington DC since the resignation of David MacNaughton.

Canadians expect an embassy appointment soon as the renegotiated NAFTA (USMCA) agreement still languishes and remains unratified by Congress. Unfortunately, Congress is now gripped by inquiries into impeachment of President Trump.

The Americans will also be looking to Canada and its new Foreign Minister to back up a principled stance in two hotspots in the Americas.

South America is bucking socialist strongmen

Venezuelans have faced hyper-inflation, starvation, and a political crisis sparked by Hugo Chavez and continued by the Maduro regime. Over 10% of Venezuelans have fled the country and more than 90% live in poverty.

Closeby in Bolivia, the resignation of Evo Morales — after being ousted by the military due to accusations of fraud and corruption — poses new challenges for Canada.

The Trudeau government has already declared that it will work with the new government of Jeanine Añez, while refusing to join the United States, Brazil, and Colombia in recognizing Añez as the new President. If Canada is to speak with principled leadership in the region, it cannot continue with this wishy-washy stance.

Canada should do as it did in Venezuela when it recognized the opposition leader as the rightful leader of the country. Again, this comes after reports of corruption, constitutional manipulation, and fraud in both countries by long-standing regimes which have impoverished its people.

Iran faces internal turmoil, Canada should back up the people against the regime

Iran is facing an uprising of its people and has been witness to widespread protests for the past few days. Terry Glavin reports major disturbances in more than 100 towns with 12 people dead and 1000 protesters arrested so far. Iran, as Iran does, has shut down internet access in an attempt to stem the protests.

All of this unrest is in reaction to a spike in fuel prices mandated by the government. Yet, democratic activists in Iran have been vocally calling for regime change for quite some time.

Since the end of the Harper government, Canada has been playing toward the European end of the engagement spectrum with Iran, eschewing the American position of sanctions and isolation in response to Iran’s aggressive plan to enrich uranium for the use in nuclear weapons.

The Canadian-European position is untenable versus a regime that breaks its word on its plans for uranium enrichment. The Iranian government claims peaceful use for energy production. However, the regime continues to threaten Isreal with annihilation and continues to make marked steps away from the 2015 Iran deal.

Champagne will have a chance to reassess Canada’s approach to Iran and will hopefully come to determine that sanctions and isolation are appropriate and reform-inducing responses to a rogue regime that flouts international law.

Trade

On the trade-front, Trudeau has been wise to continue Prime Minister Harper’s agenda of negotiating free trade agreements with friendly nations. Canada is currently negotiating significant free trade agreements with India, Japan, and the Mercosur nations of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Trudeau will need to repair relations with India to re-prioritize Canadian negotiations with the world’s largest democracy (and growing market), while its diplomatic positions on change in South America could direct progress among the significant markets of that continent.