The Ontario government says it will not be renewing an existing contract with WE Charity amid a controversy that has sparked a conflict of interest probe against the prime minister.
The decision, which was confirmed in a statement to Global News Friday afternoon, said that the Ministry of Education “has been directed to not renew the contract with WE and to investigate the expenditures to date.”
“We are deeply concerned and troubled by the allegations against WE,” read the statement. “This is taxpayer money. Hard working people in this province deserve to know that their money is delivering value, and these allegations raise serious questions.”
The Ontario government did not, however, specify which set of allegations they were referring to in their statement.
WE had been previously been chosen to deliver a $912-million student grant program but the deal was scrapped amid criticism over the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s family’s ties with the group.
Revelations of further ties between federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s family to the charity raised further criticism over the grant’s handling.
Speaking during his testimony to the House of Commons finance committee on Thursday, Trudeau expressed regret as he did not recuse himself from the decision to award the sole-sourced contract to WE.
During a House of Commons finance committee hearing on Tuesday, WE Charity founders Craig and Marc Kielburger described the decision to administer the federal student service grant program as “a favour we were doing to be helpful to Canada.”
The government of Ontario also did not specify which contract it was not going to renew with the charity.
WE Charity was set to administer WE Schools, a $250,000 “year-long education program that aims to nurture empathy and compassion in students” by “engaging students and teachers in local and global actions through classroom and after-school curriculum and resources,” according to a June 18 news release detailing newly announced mental health initiatives for Ontario students.
The charity says on its website that it first started “service-learning programs” in 1999 when it helped support the rollout of Ontario’s 40-hour community service requirement for high school graduation.
The charity’s website also cites a partnership with the Toronto District School Board to develop program to train “youth and equip educators and students about service-learning” as well as a having programs that are supported by 3,200 schools across Ontario.
A total of 7,000 schools and groups are also “actively engaged” in the programming, according to the charity.
Tax documents also revealed that the charity had paid over US$600,000 to several American political consulting firms — one of which was linked the Republican party and specializes in “combative media training.”
U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax filings for the fiscal year ending in August 2019 showed that the charity had paid three firms a total of $US605,853, including US$130,000 to Firehouse Strategies — the latter of which was founded in 2016 by prominent members of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
— With files from Sean Boynton, Amanda Connolly and Andrew Russell
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