PET Foundation: from frying pan into the fire

TORONTO – As an Endowment Fund, the Trudeau Foundation is pretty small potatoes compared to the Endowment funds established by universities to accomplish similar objectives. This is so even considering the $125 Million infusion by the Government of Canada, in perpetuity (more on this later). 

The top ten Universities in Canada, combined, have such funds totaling some $12 Billion – and growing. Even the University of Ottawa, which is not among that group but whose Chancellor, Hon. Allan Rock, a former colleague, boasts a Fund of $321 Million, about 10% of the size of the Endowment fund of the University of Toronto.

Mr. Rock jumped into the fray, so to speak, in defense of the Trudeau Foundation, even as its entire Board of Directors, together with its CEO, abandoned the Foundation. Because, they said, they did not want to be caught up in [tainted by?] nastiness of the politics, mostly partisan, which were enveloping the public discussion.

It did not help that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff was compelled to appear before a House of Commons Committee on April 13 to address the involvement of the Chinese Government directly or indirectly in Canadian affairs. Endowment Foundations can and do solicit money from everywhere. Their boards of directors usually operate on the understanding that directors “give money, get money or get off [the board]”.

Without degrading the work of researchers PHD candidates and mentors associated with the Trudeau Foundation, one of the unintended consequences of the intervention by Mr. Rock (former Attorney General) was the examination by interested parties into the Financial Statements filed by the organization. In the explanatory notes, the Auditor indicates that Donations made by directors, members, officers and related parties totaled $116 for the year ended August 31, 2020 (2019 – $116). The Directors of the Board are all “well-heeled”.

What may have bothered Mr. Rock is that one of the issues drawing negative attention to the Prime Minister and the Foundation is that, typically, donors can restrict the purposes for which a donation to the endowment fund can be used. Moreover, because the Foundations are also typically not-for-profit and charitable for CRA purposes, they attract a charitable donation tax credit.

In the context of Beijing’s alleged and unproven interference in Canada’s political affairs, it is reasonable for Canadians to be skeptical about motives, and consequent conduct by recipients in authority, when the Prime Minister and/or his delegates meet for fundraising banquets involving such personalities. We should all understand that nothing untoward needs to have taken place.

Still, the Board resigned en masse citing the toxic climate now enveloping the Foundation and blaming others for it. They can do as they like but, tax auditors who went to the Financial Statements on p.81 that, “In the event of a default by the Foundation, the Government of Canada may terminate the funding agreement and require the Foundation to repay funds not otherwise committed”.

Assuming no such “default” (illegal activity) took place, and that the Foundation was compliant, why resign – and en masse? Why indeed have a former Attorney General rush to the barricades? Especially when you do not need him. 

In the pic above, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau