Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a House of Commons committee today that, despite his family's ties with WE Charity, he did not place himself in a conflict of interest through his involvement in cabinet discussions on getting the charity to run a $900 million student grant program — but he apologized again for failing to recuse himself from those discussions.
"I was not in a position of conflict of interest. I apologized because of the perception [over] ties with my family. I should have recused myself," Trudeau said in French.
Trudeau said that, when his government was working on the grant program, events related to the pandemic were moving fast and his government was sprinting to get programs out the door. He said that haste was part of the reason why he failed to recuse himself from cabinet discussions regarding WE Charity.
"That is certainly part of the context but I don't think it is the whole reason why I didn't recuse myself," Trudeau said. "Youth issues have been something that I have been deeply involved with all my career, and I care deeply about the idea of youth service."
Trudeau also claimed he slowed down the approval process for the grant program, pulling it from the May 8 cabinet meeting to give the public service more time to review it.
"I did not influence the public service to choose this organization. Indeed, when the public service came forward with this organization, I said, 'You know what? Let's put the brakes on that. Let's make sure it's done absolutely right because there are going to be questions of the connections with my family on this,'" he said.
"Yes, in hindsight I should have recused myself and perhaps the program would be delivering for students right across the country right now."