Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday for taking a personal day as the House of Commons returns to debate wage subsidy legislation under the cloud of accusations of yet another ethics breach over the WE Charity scandal.
The House of Commons is set to resume at noon following several weeks’ suspension as the Liberals push to pass a bill that will extend the coronavirus wage subsidy and send a benefit payment to Canadians with disabilities, something they tried and failed to do at the last sitting in June.
But Trudeau will not be there when that debate gets underway — instead, his itinerary says he will be taking a personal day. It follows weeks of criticism over allegations that his government’s decision to give a sole-sourced $900-million federal grant program to the WE Charity broke ethics rules.
“Justin Trudeau picked today. He could’ve picked any day he liked … He picked today to come back and debate this bill and also to participate in question period, and then he decided to take a personal day,” Scheer said in a press conference.
“Completely unacceptable that he doesn’t show up for work on the day he chose. It’s an insult to Canadians who have very serious questions about the WE scandal.”
Global News reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office asking why Trudeau will be off on Monday.
A senior government source pointed out that the House will be sitting for two more days this week. The source said Trudeau will be back at work later this week, but would not yet confirm whether he would appear in the House in the coming days.
Revelations that the WE Charity has paid members of the Trudeau family hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of speaking fees have led to intense scrutiny of the government in recent weeks.
The resulting outcry saw the WE Charity withdraw from the agreement to administer the program and the federal ethics commissioner open a probe into the sole-sourced grant.
The probe will also look into the failure of both Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to recuse themselves from cabinet discussions on the grant, given that Morneau has one daughter working as an employee of the WE Charity.
Another daughter received a book endorsement from its founder and has spoken several times at events put on by the organization, though Morneau’s office said she was not paid for that work.
Morneau is expected to face questions on Monday about the wage subsidy extension bill, which will keep that program running until December and loosen up some of the criteria for businesses.
The bill is expected to pass as the Bloc Québécois says it will support the legislation.
Scheer said his party plans to push for changes to the bill but did not commit to supporting it as it stands now.
With a file from Global’s Abigail Bimman.