The controversial Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation will receive a federal audit soon into the appropriateness of purchasing stocks in China with taxpayer dues.
On September 21, the Commons public accounts committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote ordered the Auditor General to investigate a taxpayers’ endowment used to bankroll the Foundation, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
Parliament in 2002 awarded $125 million to the Foundation by then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien, despite facing concerns by Opposition MPs on the funding.
“What is a more fitting legacy to the man who symbolized youth, excellence and the innovative spirit?” he said at the time of its disbursement.
“Access To Information does not apply to these foundations,” then-Canadian Alliance MP Val Meredith told a 2003 hearing of the Commons public accounts committee.
“We don’t have any control over what the agreement says, what they do with the money or whether they are spending it in the way it is supposed to be spent,” he said then.
However, witnesses testified the Foundation as late as 2021 held an undisclosed sum in Chinese stock, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
“We had two investments,” said Foundation chair Edward Johnson at a June 8 hearing. Their China portfolio included shares in Tencent Holdings Limited, a Shenzhen video game maker, and software company Baidu.com.
The Foundation came under intense scrutiny after it became known publicly that they accepted a $140,000 gift from a donor with ties to Beijing. This prompted the CEO to abruptly resign from the board on April 10.
Bloc Québécois MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné, who sponsored the motion to pursue an audit, countered the decades’ old claim by saying the endowment “had criteria to respect.”
“There are many foundations that have names of individuals but they never receive public funds like the Trudeau Foundation. That imposes some responsibilities and obligations and we need to make sure,” she said, calling it “very unusual” that such a foundation received public funds.
In the unanimous motion, Sinclair-Desgagné asked the Auditor General to look into the original agreement with the Government of Canada which gave $125 million to the Trudeau Foundation, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
MPs passed the motion to investigate “the Foundation’s compliance with its obligations under this agreement.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said he had no dealings with the namesake Foundation since becoming prime minister, though he acknowledged his brother Alexandre remains an executive director who personally met one Chinese donor.
“Those people who are trying to get short term political gain by increasing polarization and partisanship in this country by launching completely unfounded and ungrounded attacks against charities or foundations must not succeed,” Trudeau told reporters on April 11.