Prime Minister Trudeau regrets not removing himself from WE Charity contract discussion

Finance Minister Bill Morneau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa Monday

The WE Charity controversy continues to dog Justin Trudeau but a political science and history instructor at the College of New Caledonia says the jury is still out on how damaging it may be to the Liberal government.

The ethics commissioner is now investigating both men for their decisions not to recuse themselves from talks about the contract, given their family ties to WE Charity - including the two trips that Morneau's family took part in.

"WE Charity received no preferential treatment not from me, not from anyone else", he told parliamentarians. "The public service recommended WE Charity". The charity backed out shortly after the programme was announced. "And that I regret because young people aren't having the opportunities they would have had this summer through that program", Trudeau admitted.

"I knew there would be perception issues around this", Trudeau said Friday in Ottawa, speaking to reporters less than 24 hours after making a rare prime ministerial appearance at a House of Commons committee over his role in the controversy.

After the April 22 announcement of the program that promised to pay eligible students up to $5,000 for volunteer work over the summer, Trudeau said he was convinced it would be run through the Canada Service Corps, an organization overseen by the federal government.

"My ask of the public servants and of the minister was to absolutely make sure that what they were suggesting was the hard and cold truth - that there was no other organization that could deliver this program, that the delivery of this program was going to be successful, that this was the right organization for it", he said. "I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation".

Trudeau's wife, brother and mother have been paid a combined $300,000 Canadian (US$221,000) for speaking at a number of WE events.

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"The idea that someone on their personal vacation would choose to support a good cause or get involved in helping make the world a better place is not something that we should reject or turn away from", Trudeau said. As a result, the prime minister is now facing his third ethics investigation.

Trudeau says he wanted to rush this program to help students.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with his Chief of Staff, Katie Telford, provided testimony at the committee on Thursday.

The Conservatives and NDP have called on federal ethics watchdog Mario Dion to widen his probe of Trudeau to include expenses paid by We to the prime minister's family.

"Is that a resignable offense for a Prime Minister?"

Morneau has apologized for the "error" and said it was his full intention to cover the full cost of the trips - though he only last week repaid the $41,000 the charity had initially covered related to the trips to Kenya and Ecuador. He later said during the meeting that he knew there "would be questions asked because of the links to my family". "Why were they told they could start charging expenses before the program was even approved?"

The Kielburger brothers have said those departmental officials told WE it could incur expenses before being awarded the agreement.

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