Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government are clearly unfamiliar with the old political Band-Aid metaphor when it comes to managing a nasty scandal.
Any experienced spin doctor will tell you it’s always best to rip the Band-Aid off quickly and reveal the entire festering ugliness of a political wound all at once.
Instead, when it comes to the WE Charity scandal, the government is slowly peeling the bandage off bit by agonizing bit, revealing more and more damaging details on a daily basis.
Trudeau is inflicting a lot of political pain on himself in the process. And there could be lots more to come.
The latest self-inflicted damage came Wednesday when Finance Minister Bill Morneau made the shocking admission that he wrote a cheque on that very day to cover unpaid travel benefits he received from WE three years ago.
Morneau admitted to the federal finance committee that he and his family took trips to Ecuador and Kenya in 2017 to learn about WE’s humanitarian projects.
Morneau said he earlier paid $52,000 to the charity to cover expenses for the trips but was recently “surprised” to learn there were $41,366 in additional expenses he had not paid.
He said he wrote a cheque to WE to cover the difference — just before he showed up to testify at the committee.
“I want to apologize for this error,” Morneau said repeatedly, the latest in the Trudeau government’s cringe-worthy instalments of serial grovelling in the affair.
The scandal has become progressively worse for the government since the cancellation of the sole-source contract it handed to WE on a silver platter to manage a $912-million student grant program.
The contract was a malodorous one from the start due to the Trudeau family’s close ties to the WE organization and its charismatic founders, brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger.
But the smell-o-meter really started to rise when it was revealed the organization had earlier paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to Trudeau’s mother and brother.
The drip-by-drip revelations since then have made things progressively worse for the Liberals.
The deepening Morneau connections are particularly troubling. His daughter worked for WE Charity. And, just like Trudeau, he apologized for failing to recuse himself from the cabinet decision to hand WE the lucrative student grant contract.
Consider the multiple serious concerns now raised by the minister’s fresh admissions around the travel expenses.
“Do you realize this was strictly illegal under the Conflict of Interest Act?” Pierre Poilievre, the Conservatives’ pit-bull finance critic, demanded of Morneau during heated committee questioning.
But all Morneau could do was keep apologizing for his “mistake,” an answer that won’t likely satisfy the federal ethics commissioner, who is investigating both Morneau and Trudeau.
Morneau’s WE-sponsored travel raises other concerns, including how it’s even possible the minister would be “surprised” to learn he and his family received more than $41,000 worth of travel benefits from the organization.
“Who did he think was paying for it all?’ Poilievre asked on Twitter.
“Did he think the luxuries fell on him from the sky?”
Indeed, the combined price tag for the two Morneau family trips — more than $92,000 — makes you question exactly how this “charity” operates.
These are just the latest in a series of recent revelations that also include:
- The WE organization was set to bank more than $43 million in fees to operate the student grant program, more than double the previously disclosed $19.5 million.
- The government waived a request-for-proposal process that would have considered competing bids on the contract.
- WE sent contract proposals directly to Trudeau cabinet ministers, triggering calls by the Conservatives for a wider investigation into possible illegal lobbying.
As much as the Liberals would love for this smouldering stink bomb to stop sending out toxic fumes, I sincerely doubt the stench is going to recede.
In fact, it’s set to get a lot worse.
Now Trudeau himself is getting ready to testify before the Commons committee, a surprise concession from a politician who normally prefers a duck-and-cover strategy when things get rough.
It makes you wonder what fresh admissions the prime minister might reveal as he continues to pick away at that Band-Aid.
Get set for more damage to come.
Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews.