Dan Albas

COLUMN: A problem with the WE charity

Federal ethics commissioner investigating Trudeau for the third time

This week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for not having recused himself from a cabinet decision that awarded a, sole-sourced, $900 million program to be administered by a charity with close ties to the Prime Minister’s family.

It has been revealed members of the Prime Minister’s family received financial payments from the same WE charity in question.

As you may have also heard, the ethics commissioner announced an investigation relating to Trudeau’s involvement in this decision.

This would make the third time that the ethics commissioner has investigated Trudeau.

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The purpose of my report this week is not to question the Prime Minister’s judgement nor his apology or the ethics investigation, but rather the decision to outsource the program as many of its details are deeply concerning.

Many Canadians will know that, for decades, the Canada Summer Jobs program has successfully matched students with employers and, for the most part, has been successfully and efficiently administered by the government of Canada public service.

The only major complaint over the years has been a lack of funds to meet the all of the requests of potential employers.

Rather than increase funding by $900 million to the Canada Summer Student Jobs program and increase the mandate to include charities and not for profit organizations, the Liberals came up with a different scheme.

The $900 million was directly awarded to the WE charity, who in turn intended to use teachers and camp operators to recruit students to become paid volunteers.

The recruitment fees payable to teachers and other organizations would be in excess of $10,000 for a certain number of students. The students in question would then be paid below minimum wage to “volunteer” for a set number of hours.

Aside from the issue of paying volunteers, there is another challenge.

Even if the program was able to recruit 100,000 students who worked enough hours to earn the maximum credit of $5,000, this only works out to $500 million.

Where does the other $400 million end up? In recruitment fees?

Either way, it does not make sense to spend $900 million and have only $500 million reach students who are ultimately being paid less than minimum wage to volunteer.

At the same time, there are small business owners and other organizations who have applied for the Canada Summer Jobs program and have been denied placements due to a lack of funding.

The WE charity and the government have made the decision to end this project leaving the future uncertain.

As the Conservative opposition, we have recommended the government should instead use that $900 million and invest it into the Canada Summer Jobs program and ensure that charities and non-profit organizations have the opportunity to apply.

My question this week is: Do you agree?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This riding includes the communities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Keremeos, Princeton, Merritt and Logan Lake.

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