Opposition push to set up probe could force Canada election

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TORONTO (AP) — Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government said Monday an opposition push for an anti-corruption committee will trigger a vote that could force a fall election in Canada.

Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez said the government considers the Conservative motion to be a matter of confidence. Trudeau’s Liberal party won re-election last year but does not have the majority of seats in Parliament and must rely on at least one opposition party to remain in power.

Trudeau said he doesn’t want an election and said his government is focused on the health and economic crisis during the pandemic.

“The opposition is going to have to decide whether they want to make this minority government work or if they have lost confidence in the government,” Trudeau said.

The opposition Conservatives, the New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois have argued the Liberals are avoiding scrutiny of contracts and programs set up to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals temporarily closed Parliament in August, which shut down the work of existing committees probing the We Charity deal.

Trudeau has said he should have recused himself from a Cabinet decision to award a contract to We Charity to administer money to students having trouble finding work due to the pandemic. The almost billion-dollar program came under scrutiny after it was revealed that We Charity, an organization Trudeau’s family has worked for, was chosen to administer it. 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.

The Conservatives said the committee could explore the WE Charity deal. Rodriguez said the motion would allow the opposition to pull cabinet ministers from their work and require them to testify “day-after-day.”

The parties will debate the motion and a vote is expected as soon as Wednesday.

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, does not anticipate an election. He expects the Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois party to prop up the government if it comes to a vote.

“The Conservatives make it sound as if the case is open and shut on Liberal corruption and the Liberals make it appear as if they have something to cover up,” Wiseman said. “The WE scandal is not as big an issue in Quebec and I believe the BQ fears that both the Liberals and Conservatives may make gains in Quebec at their expense in a snap election.”

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