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Tories won’t try to force election over WE Charity controversy: Poilievre

Conservative MP says party won’t force election over WE Charity controversy after contract cancelled
WATCH ABOVE: Conservative MP says party won't force election over WE Charity controversy after contract cancelled

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to provide additional clarity on the value of the WE Charity contract.

MP Pierre Poilievre says the Conservatives aren’t looking to force an election over the Liberal government’s $900-million deal with WE Charity, which was called off on Friday.

“We don’t have to,” the Conservative finance critic told reporters during a press conference Sunday.

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“We already got what we asked for, which was for the government to cancel the program and redirect the funds through the professional public service and make it open and transparent for all organizations.”

WE Charity had been tapped to administrate a youth volunteer grant program launched in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Read more: Ethics commissioner launches investigation into Trudeau, $900M WE Charity contract

The contract, announced late last month, was sharply criticized by opposition parties over the lack of formal competition for the work, as well as the prime minister’s personal connection to the group.

If the deal hadn’t been scrapped, Poilievre said addressing comments he made in a recent CBC interview, he believes the issue could have led to the defeat of the Liberals, who need the support of other parties to pass bills and govern.

“They knew that and it’s exactly why they backed down,” he said. “The prime minister always backs down when he gets caught.”

Conservative MP calls on Trudeau government to provide more funding to auditor general office
Conservative MP calls on Trudeau government to provide more funding to auditor general office

The Canada Student Service Grant was set up to provide graduates and students with compensation of up to $5,000 for 500 hours of volunteer work.

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The program is worth $900 million, and WE Charity was set to receive $19.5 million for administration costs.

On Friday, however, the Liberals announced that the program would be administered by the federal government after a mutual decision had been reached to halt the WE contract.

Later that afternoon, federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion announced a probe into whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contravened the Conflict of Interest Act with regards to the deal.

Ethics watchdog investigating Trudeau over WE Charity’s $912-million contract
Ethics watchdog investigating Trudeau over WE Charity’s $912-million contract

Ethics critics for both the Conservatives and the NDP had written to the commissioner seeking that investigation.

Trudeau has participated in WE events, and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, hosts a podcast on well-being for the organization.

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In response to criticism, the prime minister has said public servants chose to partner with WE for the initiative. He also stated that the organization was the “best and only” group his government could team up with to administer the program.

His office said in a statement Friday that it would “of course collaborate” with the ethics commissioner and answer any questions he may have.

With files from the Canadian Press