We already have provisions on the appearance of conflict of interest, in the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, among others. In addition, when they have an apparent conflict of interest, court judges recuse themselves and do not sit. This seems to be quite common among those who have decisions to make. They don't leave themselves open by putting themselves in certain situations. It is said that if someone is in a situation of apparent conflict of interest, they undermine the appearance of justice, and the public may lose confidence in the judicial system. It seems to me that the same reasoning could be applied to situations involving government.
However, in this case, Mr. Dion, the appearance is quite significant. Members of Mr. Trudeau's family, including his mother, wife, and brother, received about half a million dollars, or at least several hundred thousand dollars, in contracts. Furthermore, Mr. Morneau's daughters worked for WE Charity. These individuals continued sitting even though they knew they were in a conflict of interest. Mr. Trudeau even postponed the decision to a later session because he was not comfortable sitting at that time. The contract was awarded under those conditions, without a competitive bidding process.
Ethics experts who testified before this committee told us that when you operate without a competitive bidding process because of the urgency of the situation, you have to be extra vigilant about anything that could give rise to conflicts of interest. In this case, not only was there no extra vigilance, there was less vigilance. No due diligence, accounting or forensic audits were done beforehand. It was even proven that the WE Charity people had negotiated directly with the government when they were not even registered as lobbyists.
So the contract was awarded to WE Charity, an empty shell with no financial history or assets to secure its obligations. No guarantees, bonds, mortgages or anything else were offered to the government. Yet the government gave WE Charity a contract for $500 million, perhaps as much as $800 million, without any auditing or bidding, simply because the Kielburger brothers were known to the Trudeau family. The Trudeau family had a relationship with them for about 20 years. I believe in Mr. Trudeau's case it dated back when the organization was founded in the 2000s.
I don't mean to suggest that you have done a bad job. I know that you are working within the provisions of the Act as it currently stands. However, shouldn't the extent of this apparent conflict of interest lead us to believe we need to anticipate such situations? Apparent conflicts of interest of this magnitude must be covered, so that situations of this kind can be avoided. Otherwise, it will be difficult to maintain public confidence in the current government.
What are your thoughts, Mr. Dion?