No doubt Kielburgers' private interests would have been furthered by government funding to WE Charity, Ethics Commissioner finds

No doubt Kielburgers' private interests would have been furthered by government funding to WE Charity, Ethics Commissioner finds

The Ethics Commissioner, Mario Dion, wrote a critical report which puts the Kielburgers at the centre of the WE Charity scandal. While the Kielburgers have claimed that they are political victims, Mario Dion didn’t buy their story. Dion’s report finds the Kielburgers accessed the highest government offices, particularly the Finance Office. The Kielburgers had a close relationship with former Finance Minister, Bill Morneau. Morneau and his staff gave WE Charity preferential treatment that was a conflict of interest. Dion found that Morneau had the opportunity to improperly further WE’s private interests and, by close proximity, the Kielburgers.

 
Key findings:

Finance staff worked their connections to get the Kielburgers meetings and government funding.

In short, Craig Kielburger had unfettered access to the Finance Minster’s office.

No doubt that the Kielburgers' private interests would have been furthered by the government's CSSG funding.

 

Dion received new anonymous information just ten weeks ago that changed his opinion. This anonymous information disclosed how Morneau and his staff were involved in two requests for WE Charity funding: $10 million in 2018 in federal and provincial funding, and a $25 million request in 2019. Finance approved $3 million in August 2019 for WE’s Social Entrepreneurs Initiative.

 

Friends in high places 

Former Finance Minister staff provided concierge-like services to the Kielburgers. His staff reached out to various ministers’ chiefs of staff to introduce the Kielburgers, calling Craig Kielburger a “dear friend” and WE Charity a “great local partner”. Finance staff asked provincial departments to meet with the Kielburgers and explore funding opportunities. When provincial funding came through, Morneau personally called Craig Kielburger to share the news.

 

Keep Craig Kielburger happy

One Parliamentary Secretary asked why she had to attend such a meeting. Morneau’s office replied that “this one is important to Bill and Craig is not in town often. It is purely listening mode to keep [Craig Kielburger] happy.”

The Ethics Commissioner also discusses the proximity of the Kielburgers to WE Charity: the Kielburgers involvement in WE’s day-to-day operations is so prevalent that the organization’s interests are also those of its co-founders. Dion has “no doubt” that WE Charity administering the CSSG would have furthered Craig Kielburger’s private interests. WE Charity was set to be the sole administrator of the CSSG, originally slated for $912 million in government funding, the largest government grant to a charity in history.

Dion says that even though WE Charity is an established charity, charities and their staff must adhere to the rules. Politicians must treat charities like any other constituent without preferential treatment.  

Dion's report puts the Kielburgers center stage in this ethics scandal. Yet the Kielburgers are not registered to lobby. None of their calls, emails, trips, and courting of politicians would have come to light if it hadn’t been for the Parliamentary inquiries over this last year. As volunteer co-founders, the Kielburgers know their way around.  

 

In other news: Federal Budget 2021: Too little, too late – why foundations need to pay out more

 

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