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Canada ethics probe widens to Trudeau’s finance minister

Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau has come under scrutiny in a widening ethics probe over a contract to a charity that paid large sums to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family - Dave Chan / ©AFP
Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau has come under scrutiny in a widening ethics probe over a contract to a charity that paid large sums to members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's family - Dave Chan / ©AFP

(AFP)

An investigation into Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s role in awarding a government contract to a charity that paid members of his family large sums of money has been extended to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, the country’s ethics commissioner said Thursday.

Mario Dion, an independent officer of parliament, announced he would be investigating Morneau following a request by the Conservative opposition.

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Like Trudeau, Morneau apologized on Monday for not having recused himself from the negotiations on the huge contract awarded to WE Charity.

Two of Morneau’s daughters were associated with the charity, one of them as an employee.

“Following requests from several parliamentarians, #EthicsCommissioner Dion will examine the Hon. Bill Morneau,” the ethics office tweeted.

“A report will be released when the examination is complete,” it said, adding that a probe of this nature on average takes about seven months.

The main opposition parties have called on Trudeau, who heads a minority government, to testify under oath before a parliamentary committee investigating the contract.

The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, but the prime minister has not yet said whether he intends to take part.

Trudeau on Monday admitted he had made “a mistake” by not recusing himself from discussions about the no-bid CAN$900 million (USD $662 million) contract with WE Charity.

The group has since said it is withdrawing from the federal program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 to eligible students for volunteer work with non-profit organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The NGO has admitting to paying nearly CAN$300,000 to Trudeau’s mother, brother and wife for speaking engagements.

The prime minister told a news conference he didn’t know how much his mother and brother were being paid.

Trudeau has run afoul of the ethics commissioner on two previous occasions since 2017 for conflict of interest violations.

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