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World

Canada PM warns gov't, opposition on collision course for snap polls

  • But Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez called it a "partisan inquisition" that would "force private citizens to release personal information."
Published October 21, 2020

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday warned that an opposition push for an anti-corruption committee to scrutinize the government's Covid-19 spending -- along with his family's dealings -- could end up triggering snap elections.

Trudeau's Liberals won re-election just one year ago, but lost their majority in the House of Commons and need the support of at least one of three opposition parties to govern.

Trudeau has said he does not want an election in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

But his government announced Tuesday that a Conservative motion to create a parliamentary committee with sweeping powers to probe "scandals and potential scandals" related to government Covid-19 spending would face a confidence vote.

"The opposition is going to have to decide whether they want to make this minority parliament work, or whether they have lost confidence in the government," Trudeau said.

If they indeed have lost confidence, he added, "unfortunately, there will be elections."

The opposition Tories say in a draft of their motion that the committee would probe several issues including a contract awarded to the WE Charity to distribute pandemic relief to young Canadians.

The roughly Can$500 million (US$381 million) contract came under scrutiny after it was revealed that the charity paid Trudeau's wife, brother and mother a combined Can$300,000 for speaking engagements.

The deal was ultimately cancelled and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who also had links to the charity, resigned in August. Also at issue are the purchase of ventilators and lobbying by the husband of Trudeau's chief of staff.

Tory leader Erin O'Toole insisted the committee must be formed to "look into the various ethical problems the Liberal government has had handing out Covid-19 contracts to its friends" and "allegations of misuse of public funds."

"It's a question of accountability," he said. "We have reasonable questions."

But Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez called it a "partisan inquisition" that would "force private citizens to release personal information."

The committee, he said, would also "jam and paralyze what the government is trying to do to help Canadians."

A vote on the motion could come as early as Wednesday.

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