Ethics commissioner clears Justin Trudeau of conflict of interest in WE Charity scandal

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fairly difficult
The commissioner concluded in a separate report that former finance minister Bill Morneau showed "preferential treatment" to Marc Kielburger and breached Parliament's ethics law.
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't break conflict of interest law in his dealings with WE Charity, but his former finance minister Bill Morneau did, the federal ethics watchdog concluded Thursday with the release of two hotly anticipated reports into one of the biggest political fumbles of the Liberal government's pandemic response.

But in both cases, ethics commissioner Mario Dion said the law as written and interpreted could only be taken so far and it is time to move beyond old definitions of friends, and what it means to be in a conflict of interest because of one.

Trudeau did appear to be in a conflict of interest when it came to a decision to have WE Charity run a $544-million grant program for student volunteers, Dion concluded.

With the prime minister's immediate family members having direct ties to the charity, it was clear there was a connection, Dion wrote. But whether the government's awarding WE Charity a contract to run the grants program crossed a line would require proof the connection was personal, and that either side stood to improperly benefit as a result — and in this case, that threshold was not met, Dion said.

The appearance of a problem isn't the same thing as a problem actually existing, at least under the law, he said.

"Without an actual conflict of interest or a clear legislative prohibition against placing oneself in an apparent conflict, I cannot conclude that a contravention has occurred," Dion wrote.

"Mr. Trudeau has acknowledged publicly that he should have recused himself because of the appearance of conflict. While it is always advisable to recuse oneself and inform the commissioner promptly when facing an apparent conflict of interest, there is no requirement to do so under the act."

Morneau, on the other hand, had a direct relationship with WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger, and the commissioner found the organization was handed preferential treatment.

The Kielburgers and their organization had…
Stephanie Levitz, Alex Ballingall
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