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What is going on with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's staff? Here's everything you need to know about the latest move.

WTF is going on with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s staff?

Rob Silver, spouse of Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took off in a concerted effort to lobby ex-finance minister Bill Morneau’s office to change a multi-billion dollar emergency wage subsidy program to benefit his company, Canadian mortgage giant MCAP.

Silver is a former lobbyist who now serves as Senior Vice President for mortgage and insurance giant MCAP. According to sources, Silver repeatedly asked the government to change its COVID-19 emergency assistance program for businesses so it would include MCAP. Silver went so far as to request specific legislative amendments to the Commercial Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Under the emergency subsidy, Ottawa pays up to seventy–five percent of employee salaries to eligible businesses. The government set conditions on the program, designed to prevent mass layoffs amid the pandemic that an employer must be a tax-paying corporation or a partnership where the majority ownership rests with a tax-paying company.

No tax, no contract

However, MCAP Commercial LP is a partnership where seventy–five percent is owned by the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, Quebec’s government–created pension fund. Because the Caisse is tax-exempt, it does not qualify for the wage subsidy – and neither does MCAP.

Anonymous sources said that Morneau’s office told Silver that such requests were inappropriate, given that Silver is a former lobbyist, representing a company which does business with Ottawa, and the husband of the chief of staff to the prime minister. 

A source familiar with the matter said Telford was never part of the conversation around MCAP’s eligibility for the wage subsidy. A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office confirmed that Telford “has not been involved in any discussions related to MCAP.”

Trying times

The news came as the Trudeau administration grappled with two concurrent ethics investigations tied to a youth grant program. It also comes just after finance Minister Morneau resigned abruptly amid clashes with the prime minister over COVID-19 spending programs.

Charity scandal

Trudeau is dealing with a firestorm sparked by his plan to award a sole–source contract to WE Charity. Weeks after the April 2020 contract announcement, the public learned how the powerful charity had paid Trudeau’s mother and brother more than $300,000 in speaking fees. His wife, Sophie, had been working for WE as an ambassador, and Trudeau himself spoke at their events.

The prime minister later made a public apology for not recusing himself from the decision to put WE in charge of a very large, especially by Canadian standards, envelope of money. “I’m sincerely sorry about not having done that,” Trudeau stated.  

Morneau resigns

Like Trudeau, former federal finance minister Bill Morneau’s family had ties to WE Charity. Two of his daughters are associated with the organization, one of them as an employee.

Morneau testified before a House of Commons finance committee looking into the matter that his family had taken two humanitarian trips, to Kenya and Ecuador, to see WE Charity’s overseas work. Although We stated the trips were complimentary, Morneau still cut a check for those $41,000 in related travel expenses.

Morneau and Trudeau were at odds about coronavirus spending regarding the scope and scale of proposed green initiatives. Morneau resigned August 17, 2020, amid reports he was irked by a perceived lack of concern with the cost of multiple COVID-19 aid packages and lack of analysis before announcing new measures by the office of the Prime Minister.

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