18:38 GMT03 August 2020
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    TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau told the Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance he reimbursed the WE Charity for expense-paid trips that he and his family took to participate in the charity's projects in Kenya and Ecuador in 2017.

    The finance minister said he previously reimbursed the WE Charity in the amount of $38,760 for travel and accommodation fees, but a further audit uncovered another $30,830 in WE-paid expenses pertaining to the trips.

    "Yesterday, I asked my assistant to reach out to the WE organisation regarding these trips and for them to provide me with the amount of total expenses incurred. Today, I wrote a check in payment of $41,366 [US$30,830]", Morneau said on Wednesday.

    Morneau also said he expected and always intended to pay the full cost of the trips, adding that the unpaid expenses caught him by surprise.

    The finance minister's revelations about the $30,830 payment touched off a firestorm with a number of Canadian parliamentarians calling for his resignation or dismissal.

    Shadow minister of finance Pierre Poilievre asked whether Morneau plans to resign to which Morneau replied that he will continue to work on behalf of Canadians. Poilievre also noted that officials cannot accept benefits under the Conflict of Interest Act.

    Morneau confirmed that he personally spoke with WE Charity co-founder Craig Kielberger on 26 April and said they did not discuss the $670-million sole-source contract to administer a government-sponsored student volunteer programme that is at the heart of the controversy.

    The Finance Minister has apologised for not recusing himself from the decision-making process but highlighted that the decision to award the contract was recommended by the public service.

    Morneau was thrust in the controversy after an investigation by independent media Canadaland that revealed his adopted daughter Grace Acan is an employee of the WE Charity, while his other daughter, Clare, has had prior speaking engagements with the organisation. Morneau also told the Standing Committee on Finance that his family has donated $74,500 to the charity.

    Canada's Ethics Commissioner has launched an investigation into a possible conflict of interest violations committed by the finance minister for the decision to award the government contract to the WE Charity.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is at the heart of the controversy, said on Tuesday that he has received an invitation to appear before the parliamentary committee, but has not made a final decision on whether he will do so.

    ​Canadaland also reported that Trudeau's mother Margaret Trudeau and brother Alexandre Trudeau were paid a combined $258,000 for speaking engagements at WE events. Trudeau's wife Sophie has also participated in a number of WE Charity events around the world.

    Tags:
    opposition, Justin Trudeau, resignation, travel, Bill Morneau, Canada
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