Tories ask auditor general to probe ‘outsourcing’ of $900M student aid program

Tories ask auditor general to probe ‘outsourcing’ of $900M student aid program

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives are calling for an investigation into the Liberal government’s decision to have an international charity administer a $900-million program designed to help students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request is contained in a letter sent to Auditor General Karen Hogan on Sunday in which the Tories argue that “outsourcing” the Canada Student Service Grant to WE Charity undermines Parliament’s ability to monitor the aid program.

The Conservatives also noted the “well documented” connections between WE and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they underscored the importance of transparency, accountability and value for money in Ottawa’s COVID-19 spending.

“By outsourcing this program to a third party, the proper channels for Opposition scrutiny, the very bedrock of our parliamentary democracy, have been circumvented,” reads the letter signed by Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre, Dan Albas and Raquel Dancho.

“Indeed, it is your office that will provide the most legitimate and transparent examination of this program.”

The auditor general’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

The Liberal government announced the Canada Student Service Grant last week as part of a broader suite of support for students and young people struggling to find internships, job placements and other work-related experience during COVID-19.

Eligible students can earn up to $5,000 for volunteer work with non-profit organizations that are helping to cushion the impact of the pandemic. The program is supposed to place up to 20,000 students in volunteer positions between now and October.

Trudeau defended employing WE to administer the program after conflict-of-interest concerns were raised last week. The prime minister attended several WE events in the past and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, hosts one of its podcasts.

The prime minister said the decision to use WE was made by the non-partisan public service, not by him. Delivery of the grant program demanded an organization able to reach the tens of thousands of students, he said.

WE directed questions Friday to the government.

The Conservatives want Hogan to incorporate her study of WE and the student aid program into her larger review of the government’s pandemic-related spending, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament later this year.

Direct federal spending on emergency aid measures now stands at $174 billion, the government announced Friday, driven by a jump in the estimated cost of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to $80 billion.

That is up from the previously revised $60 billion and more than double the original $35-billion estimate, as demand rises and recipients get ready to receive eight extra weeks of payments.

Statistics Canada’s latest jobs report showed that returning post-secondary students, aged 20 to 24, had a record-high unemployment rate in May of 42.1 per cent, and about one-third had seen summer placements disappear because of COVID-19.

Data released Friday by the agency also found that youths in the so-called Internet generation were the most likely to formally volunteer. They contributed on average 82 unpaid hours to charities in 2018 and had a volunteer rate of 52 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Local resident Ethel Williams is marking a very special milestone this month

The ‘Ethel Williams 100th Birthday Parade’ is taking place July 17th from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

2 dead, 8 hurt in South Carolina nightclub shooting

Police are searching for two suspects

Ponoka RCMP lay charges following home invasion

33-year-old man who arrived on bicycle is in custody

Stettler Board of Trade continues to help businesses navigate challenging times

‘Christmas in July’ is another current means of encouraging folks to ‘shop local’

Calgary singer Erin Ross to be featured at ‘Entertainment in the Park’ July 15th

Roots/blues musician can hardly recall a time when she wasn’t passionate about performing

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

Flood warning, mandatory evacuation for people in remote Alberta hamlet

A flood warning has been issued for the rain-swollen Smoky River near the Hamlet of Watino

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, Amnesty, sex worker advocates say

‘We need to make sure the existing laws on the books aren’t enforced’

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Most Read