(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

(Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Potential COVID-19 exposure on March 1 Penticton flight

Interior Health lists a public exposure for the Pacific Air Flight from Vancouver on March 1

The Town of Osoyoos is looking into allowing two food trucks at the downtown plaza over the summer, which would require updates to several town policies and bylaws. (Kevin Clark - Black Press Media File)
Osoyoos council to weigh allowing additional downtown food trucks

The proposal would be aimed to benefits the summer’s downtown plaza

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

(Baldy Mountain Resort / Facebook) 
(Baldy Mountain Resort / Facebook)
Baldy Mountain calls out snowmobilers for damaging ski hill

The Resort is fed up with snowmobilers running across their trails

C.E. “Ned” Bentley owned a garage on Shaughnessy Avenue, now Lakeshore Drive in Summerland. Bentley later went on to serve on Summerland’s council and was recognized with the Good Citizen Award in 1939. (Summerland Museum photo)
Former Summerland reeve once ran garage

C.E. “Ned” Bentley was a prominent figure in Summerland’s past.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Most Read