The WE Fiasco

In the past couple of weeks, the layers of the onion are being pulled back on the Liberal-WE Charity deal. We now know it’s more accurate to say WE Foundation, but we’ll get to that part of the later. 

Every day, a new bit of information makes its way into the public sphere and a fresh round of stories are written. Some more salacious than others, yet here we are weeks later, still finding out parts of this quagmire. 

To help people get their head wrapped around this controversy, it was time to pull all the pieces of the story and write a few posts about how we got here. 

Let’s start at the very beginning. 

Due to the pandemic, large swaths of our economy were shut down and almost every school in the country had to adjust so students could finish out the academic year. 

University students, who rely on summer employment to pay for tuition, were concerned they might not be able to find a job. 

At this point of the pandemic, it was fair to say that no one knew how long health orders were going to be in place and what other safety precautions were going to be implemented. 

The Liberal government unveiled the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which has since become part of the Canadian lexicon, was made available for anyone who lost their income, could no longer go to work, or for some other reason directly related to COVID. 

However, students who do not work part-time jobs while going through school, were deemed ineligible for CERB as they were not employed at the onset of the pandemic. 

This is where a decision was made by the Liberal government, that has not been fully explained. 

In early April, Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau start discussing how to help students. 

We later found out the Liberals decided to create two new programs, the first being the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) program, which was to be run by WE Charity (Foundation). 

Before touching on the WE (Foundation) controversy, why did the Canada Student Service Grant needed to be created in the first place? 

Anytime a government creates a new program, it takes time and money. So, during a pandemic when time is of the essence, it boggles the mind why they decided to start from scratch. 

In fact, during the Prime Minister’s committee appearance he was asked about this and didn’t give a coherent response. 

Now instead of just allocating the new funding to the longstanding Canada Summer Jobs Program, which Service Canada has run for years, the Liberal government created the Canada Student Service Grant. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the Canada Summer Jobs Program, the federal government partners with non-profits, charities, museums, farms, and businesses to encourage them to hire a summer student. 

The federal government offsets the salaries of students and this program has helped hundreds of thousands of students find summer employment over the years. 

For those wondering, in our constituency, charities and non-profits traditionally make up the bulk of the those who hire summer students through this program. 

It should also be said, in our constituency, multiple applicants didn’t get the funding they requested for this year’s Canada Summer Jobs program as the demand was so high. 

Service Canada has successfully operated the Canada Summer Jobs Program for many years. They have a thorough list of previous applicants and already have their contact information. 

Now most of the charities and organizations who would theoretically benefit from new Canada Student Service Grant program, already know how to fill out applications for the Canada Summer Jobs program, as many have been doing it for years. 

This is where things get very foggy. 

We still haven’t heard why the Liberal government had to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to help students, when they could have used the existing infrastructure and program in place. 

This sort of machinery of government debate is never going to end up on the front pages of newspapers, however, when Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau didn’t recuse themselves from awarding WE the millions of dollars to administer the program, that’s when this story burst out into the open. 

The next blog post will deal with why Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau are now under an Ethics investigation. 

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