To simply call it a scandal fails to capture the true seriousness of the issue. The concerns surrounding the award of a $910 million contract to the WE Charity represent neither a mistake nor an oversight. The matter must not be discounted as a minor infraction nor viewed in isolation. The WE Charity contract award highlights serious failings of this government on many fronts.
First, it represents a failure of Canada’s federal procurement process. As a former government procurement officer, I was trained extensively in the government procurement laws and processes, as well as the related authorities and responsibilities. The contract procedure is comprehensive and designed to ensure Canadians receive quality services at competitive prices. A sole source contract is only issued when there is no other supplier who can fulfill the role, and only after an Advanced Contract Award Notice (ACAN) has been issued to the public. The ACAN allows additional suppliers who can provide the service to approach the government, changing the process to a competitive one. If the contract is sole sourced there are very stringent conditions surrounding what a company can charge as an administrative fee and how much profit they may make on the contract elements as a whole. The government has the right to conduct a detailed review of all company financials and claw back any excess profit.
The WE charity contract was issued without a competition with other Canadian entities who could have performed the services needed. The almost $20 million fee to administer the contract appears significantly higher than other similar service contracts and suggests that it might have been exempt from the more stringent sole source oversight requirements. This calls into question whether the WE Charity service contract price tag of $910 million represented the best value for taxpayer money. It also raises an even more fundamental question; where was Canada’s non-partisan civil service to ensure that our procurement process was followed and why did no one speak out when it wasn’t? The answer to the latter should be of greater concern than the fact that Canada’s procurement process failed. Could it be because the last civil servant to speak out against a government procurement destined for friends of the Liberals was Vice Admiral Mark Norman and his career and reputation was destroyed as a result?
Second, the WE Charity affair highlights a tendency for the Prime Minister and those around him to place personal gain ahead of the good of the country. Justin Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother have received over $300,000 in compensation from the WE Charity. The Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughters have both been employed by the WE Charity. Furthermore, the Morneau family has travelled to Kenya and Ecuador with the organization. The Conflict of Interest Act requires public office holders to recuse themselves from “any discussion, decision, debate or vote” that would put them in a conflict of interest. But neither did. Why not? And on how many other occasions has this been the case? How much of Canada’s $343 Billion deficit spending and over a Trillion-dollar debt has been gifted to friends and families of this Liberal government rather than spent on Canadians in need?
Lastly, it highlights a pattern of behaviour that this Prime Minister and his Cabinet act as though they are above the law. Justin Trudeau has been found in violation of the Conflict of Interest Act on two previous occasions. The first violation: an improper vacation “which could reasonably have been seen to influence Trudeau”, and the second: improper meddling in the SNC Lavalin judicial process where Trudeau sought to “circumvent, undermine and ultimately discredit” public prosecutors and the attorney general. Rather than showing remorse or changing his behaviour to act more appropriately, Justin Trudeau now stands accused of a further breach. He is being investigated for his action in the contract award to the WE Charity; for “taking a direct role in awarding a contract to a charity with direct deposits to direct family members”.
Our democracy is built on fair and open government processes and the ethics, honesty, honour and integrity of those who serve as elected officials.
Each of those critical elements were broken in the case of the award of the WE contract and our democracy and our country are weaker for it.
Originally published in The Auroran Newspaper-click here