Trudeau denies conflicts in ethics scandal

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In highly-anticipated testimony to Parliament on Thursday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied any conflict of interest in awarding a lucrative government contract to an organization that had previously paid members of his family.

Trudeau spoke in his own defense before the Finance Commission for 90 minutes, an exceptional move for a Canadian head of government, as he tries to ward off an escalating scandal.

“There was never any direction by or attempt to influence from me or my staff that the public service recommend WE Charity,” he said referring to the group central to the probe.

WE Charity has said it paid Trudeau’s mother and brother nearly CAN$300,000 for speaking engagements in recent years.

Trudeau’s wife was paid CAN$1,500 for an event in 2012, before her husband became the leader of the Liberal Party.

Trudeau apologized for the affair on July 13, saying he made a “mistake” in not recusing himself from discussions about awarding a student scholarship fund government contract to WE Charity that was initially estimated at CAN$990 million (USD $662 million).

Canada’s youth minister has said the program’s final value actually came out to about CAN$500 million, local media reported.

The charity has given up the program, but the controversy remains. The organization could have already received more than CAN$40 million, according to reports. (AFP)

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