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Kielburger backtracks after saying PMO contacted WE about $900M program

Last Updated Jun 30, 2020 at 2:30 pm MDT

Marc Kielburger from Toronto receives the Order of Canada from Governor General Michaelle Jean during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday April 7, 2010. One of the co-founders of WE Charity says he "misspoke" when he told youth leaders earlier this month that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's staff reached out in April to see if the organization would administer a $900-million federal student-aid program.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — One of the co-founders of WE Charity says he “misspoke” when he told youth leaders earlier this month that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s staff reached out in April to see if the organization would administer a $900-million federal student-aid program.

The comments are in response to a video of the Zoom call with youth leaders obtained by The Canadian Press in which Marc Kielburger says Trudeau’s office reached out the day after the prime minister first announced plans for the Canada Student Service Grant on April 22.

Kielburger says he was speaking “loosely and enthusiastically” when he referred to the Prime Minister’s Office on the call on June 12 and that WE was contacted the following week by a senior public servant.

Trudeau made no mention of WE when he announced the program but the government revealed last week that youth organization had been chosen to administer it, providing up to $5,000 to students who volunteer for programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister has since had to defend against allegations of cronyism due to his and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s previous links to the organization.

The Liberals have said WE was chosen by the non-partisan public service and Trudeau spokesman Alex Wellstead today said no one from the Prime Minister’s Office asked WE to administer the grant.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press