Justin Trudeau’s finance minister acknowledged he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses from the charity embroiled in a scandal over a student grants contract, fanning the controversy.
Bill Morneau, facing questions from lawmakers studying the issue in Ottawa, apologized Wednesday for not repaying more than C$41,000 ($31,000) to the WE Charity until now.
“This was a mistake on my behalf,” Morneau said. “It is my mistake. It is a mistake that I regret. I apologize for that.”
The finance minister said the C$41,366 in expenses were incurred when his family traveled to Kenya and Ecuador in 2017 with the non-profit group. Morneau also said his family made two C$50,000 donations to WE, one in April 2018 to support work for students in Canada and a second last month for Covid-19 relief efforts in Kenya.
Morneau said he wasn’t aware he had incurred the expenses at the time, and only realized the “error” after a recent review of the trips.
Along with Trudeau, Morneau is also under investigation by Canada’s ethics watchdog for possible conflict of interest over the decision to award a contract worth up C$43.5 million to WE for the administration of a C$900 million student grant program. Two of the finance minister’s daughters have ties to the group, including one who currently works for the organization.
Separately Wednesday, the prime minister’s office said Trudeau has accepted an invitation to testify before the finance committee on the issue.