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Ethics commissioner sets sights on Morneau as WE Charity grant probe expands

What to expect from Trudeau’s WE Charity testimony
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his chief of staff Katie Telford will testify Thursday in front of the House of Commons finance committee about the government's now-cancelled contract with WE Charity. Mike Le Couteur looks at how Trudeau is feeling, and what to expect.

The scope of the ethics inquiry into the federal government’s dealings with WE Charity has been broadened again, this time to include a deeper look into the actions of Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In a letter addressed to NDP MP Charlie Angus, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion confirmed he would be expanding the scope of the ongoing investigation to include examining whether Morneau’s acceptance of travel gifts from WE Charity violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

WE Charity co-founders testify at committee hearing
WE Charity co-founders testify at committee hearing

The ongoing inquiry is seeking to determine whether the federal government engaged in a conflict of interest by awarding WE Charity a contract to administer a $900-million grant program to student volunteers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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In the letter, Dion said Angus had asked that the investigation look into Morneau for failing to disclose that he had received travel gifts from WE Charity.

Read more: What is the WE Charity scandal and who are the Kielburger brothers?

Last week Morneau told a House of Commons committee he had recently reimbursed WE Charity more than $41,000 to cover travel expenses incurred when he, his wife and their daughters took part in trips with the organization.

“Please note that I have expanded the scope of my examination to include subsection 11(1) of the Act, which prohibits a public office holder or a member of their family from accepting gifts that may reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the public office holder in the exercise of their official powers, duties or function,” Dion wrote in the letter.

WE scandal: Craig Kielburger says hiring Bill Morneau’s daughter not considered lobbying
WE scandal: Craig Kielburger says hiring Bill Morneau’s daughter not considered lobbying

Dion said he will also be looking into whether Morneau may have contravened section 23 of the Conflict of Interest Act by “failing to disclose these gifts.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also come under fire after it was revealed his mother, brother and wife each received payments from the charity for various speaking events over the last several years.

Both Morneau and Trudeau have publicly apologized for failing to recuse themselves from the contract talks.

Read more: A timeline of key events in the WE Charity, Trudeau controversy

On Tuesday, Craig and Marc Kielburger — co-founders of WE Charity — testified before the committee, saying that the organization had good intentions when accepting the sole-source contract.

“We were not chosen for this work by public servants because of our relationship with politicians,” Craig said during the hearing.

“We were chosen because we are willing to leverage every part of our 25 years of experience to build this program at the break-neck speed required to have an impact on Canadian youth over the summer.”

The committee has been tasked with determining how an organization with close financial ties to prominent members of the government received a sole-sourced contract to run the Canada Student Service Grant.

Trudeau and his Chief of Staff Katie Telford are scheduled to appear before the committee on Thursday.

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–With a file from The Canadian Press