Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on Thursday made a rare appearance before a parliamentary committee to defend a contract awarded by his government.
The contract borders on implementation of a student grant programme worth 674 million U.S. dollars (N256.7 billion).
The House of Commons finance committee had summoned Trudeau to explain why his government awarded the contract to a charity linked to his family.
In his opening remarks during the virtual appearance, the prime minister denied that the voice of WE Charity Canada was based on family connections.
Trudeau said he learned about the contract just hours before it showed up on the agenda of a cabinet meeting held on May 8.
“We Charity received no preferential treatment. Not from me, not from anyone else.
“My chief of staff and I were finding out about this important part of the programme only hours before the cabinet meeting.
“The public service recommended WE Charity. I did absolutely nothing to influence that recommendation,” he said.
The prime minister said he initially removed the programme from the cabinet meeting agenda, but later changed his mind following repeated advice.
Trudau said after almost two weeks of further deliberations, he was advised that the programme could only go ahead with We Charity.
“I actually slowed it down and pushed back on it to make sure everything was done exactly right because I knew questions would be asked about the links to my family,” he said.
Reports say it is unusual for a Canadian prime minister to appear before a parliamentary committee, the last time being in 2006.
Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, was also scheduled to testify before the committee after the prime minister.
The testimony followed the prime minister’s investigation for possible conflict of interest in the programme.
This is the third ethics probe he has faced in three years, according to the paper.
He has reportedly already apologised publicly for participating in the Cabinet decision to pick WE Charity Canada to manage the grant programme.
The organisation is said to have backed out shortly after the programme was announced.