The Trudeau Foundation: it does not look good

TORONTO – Things are not always as bad as they appear at first blush. Then, they become downright unsustainable and “nothing works”. So it would appear with the Trudeau Foundation and with those associated with it. 

There is no other way to explain the mass – no, unanimous – resignation of the CEO and Board of Directors of the Foundation. The Foundation had been created by friends and relatives of the former Prime Minister following the latter’s death in September of 2000 to honour his memory. In its essence, it was an endowment fund for scholarships in Social Studies and the Humanities.

In 2002, in Jean Chretien’s waning years in office, the Government of Canada entered into a contractual agreement with the Foundation that resulted in the infusion of $125 Million of public monies to boost the “work” of the organization.

The “work” was an ambitious academic project. The cost reflected the “prestige” aspired. To place the value of the contribution in some type of context, the average daily closing price of one once of gold in 2002 was $310; today (April 13, 2023) it is $1,910 – all figures in US Dollars. A rough estimate of the value in today’s purchasing power of the Fund, once exchange rates are factored in, suggests comparisons with the now defunct WE project in size (close to a billion dollars at termination in 2020).

WE was run by a couple of “average guys”. The Trudeau Foundation’s Membership and Board of Directors is a veritable “who’s who” of Canada’s financial, industrial, academic, bureaucratic and political galaxy of stars. Many of them either family members of the Trudeau clan or closely related professionally. Last year’s Balance Sheet for the Foundation declared assets of $142, 321,000.

For specific reasons known only to the decision makers, the Globe and Mail investigated into the donors’ list and recipients of the [CRA]charitable tax credits issued to such donors. It subsequently revealed that one donor, Mr. Zhang Bin, with reputedly close ties to the government in Beijing, made a $200,000 donation in 2016, after Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister. (ed. Note: the amount and date keep changing as new reports are published)

Readers will know that the subject of foreign interference, and specifically Chinese involvement (even if unproven) in Canadian affairs is au courant. Among others, Canada’s security service agencies are cited as “unnamed sources” in stories circulating among Canada’s Press and Media for leaks alleging those ties and attributing influence in the political sphere.

The picture is murky, to say the least. The Prime Minister is not helping himself by countering thinly veiled allegations of ethical compromise by hurling accusations of partisan-motivation by those who seek answers.

Little “juicy tidbits” of news in respect of the relationship between the “donors”, and their conditions, include a request that a statue of Mao Zedong be erected in the same area as one of Pierre Trudeau. The request was apparently turned down by the University designated as the preferred host location.

As salacious as the “political aspect” may be for some, the ethics and legalities attached to the affair are beginning to emit a malodourous scent.