Liberals filibuster opposition motion to get details of Trudeau family's speaking fees

It is the ethics committee's second attempt to obtain the speaking fee records after the first was blocked when the Liberals prorogued Parliament on Aug. 18

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OTTAWA — Liberal MPs on the House of Commons ethics committee mounted a filibuster Friday afternoon of the opposition’s attempt to get details of the Trudeau family’s speaking fees — particularly as they relate to WE Charity events.

The Liberals dragged out the committee’s proceedings through lengthy speeches and repeated requests to adjourn. Finally, after four and a half hours, the meeting adjourned without a vote on the motion after a Bloc Québécois MP joined with the Liberals in voting to adjourn. The committee will likely pick up the matter again at its next meeting.

It is the committee’s second attempt to obtain the speaking fee records after the first was blocked when the Liberals prorogued Parliament on Aug. 18. Opposition MPs say they want to review the records to verify how much the Trudeaus were paid by WE Charity and its related organizations.

The motion, introduced by the Conservatives but with the backing of the NDP and Bloc, orders the Speakers’ Spotlight to provide details of speaking fees paid since 2008 for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, his mother Margaret Trudeau and his brother Alexandre Trudeau. The documents would be reviewed by the committee “in camera,” meaning they wouldn’t be made public.

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Because it’s a minority Parliament situation, the Liberals are outvoted on the committee if the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois all vote together.

Opposition MPs had originally hoped to vote on the motion at the committee’s Thursday meeting, but that was blocked by the Liberals. A new meeting was called Friday by committee chair David Sweet, a Conservative MP.

“I’m ready to do this until it’s resolved, because we’re into a second meeting dealing with the same motion,” Conservative MP Michael Barrett said at the outset of Friday’s meeting.

“We need to verify and get these answers,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus. “I know this debate may go on as long as the Liberals want to filibuster and shut us down, but the work of Parliament must be able to return to the Canadian people and say we did due diligence.”

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Earlier this summer, the question of the Trudeau family’s speaking fees became part of the controversy over the $900-million Canada Student Service Grant program. Trudeau did not recuse himself from the decision to have WE Charity administer the grant program even though he and his family had frequently appeared at WE Charity events.

After the program was announced, media reports revealed that Margaret and Alexandre Trudeau had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees and expenses from 2016 to 2020. WE also said Trudeau’s wife? received a $1,400 honorarium for speaking at a 2012 event. Both WE and Trudeau have said that the prime minister was never paid for his appearances.

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Angus set out his rationale for supporting the motion, saying he wanted to fact check the information provided by the co-founders of WE, Marc and Craig Kielburger.

“If the statements that the Kielburgers made are true in regards to the payments that were made, those documents will verify that,” Angus said. “But being that we have felt through our investigation of WE that we have not gotten clear answers, we need to be able to verify whether or not these payments are in the manner that they described. Were there other payments? Were these payments involving other matters? We need to know that.”

Liberal MPs on the committee repeatedly entered into long speeches that veered on and off topic, a standard tactic by parliamentarians seeking to delay a vote. The Liberals occasionally tried to amend the motion or have the meeting adjourned, but were outvoted by the opposition.

We have felt through our investigation of WE that we have not gotten clear answers

The Liberals also outlined — at great length — various reasons why they felt the motion was inappropriate, including that the matter should be the responsibility of the ethics commissioner and that the committee has better things to focus on.

“It is all about COVID right now, this is what is critical for Canadians,” said Liberal MP Brenda Shanahan in protest.

“I don’t think it’s the expectation of the Canadian public to think that Members of Parliament are curtailing or auditing the activities of their family members,” Shanahan added later. “So to be going after the mother of a Member of Parliament, to be going after their brother…I found very inappropriate right from the beginning.”

At another point, Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara started reading into the record a media article about the government’s COVID-19 smartphone app before he was stopped by protests it was off topic.

Both Liberals and Conservative MPs had said they were prepared to meet all night if necessary, but the meeting finally ended after Bloc MP Marie-Hélène Gaudreau said she didn’t see a resolution coming any time soon and voted with the Liberals to adjourn.

? Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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