As a single marker to the hollowness of my days, only partially accounted for by the COVID quarantines and the endless relays of its dreary and confusing morbidity statistics, allow me to tell you I have been watching some old video clips of past WE Days of brand Kielburger.
When particularly feeble I’ve also gone on to WE’s internet home where there is a fulsome diary of the K boys, and their attendant celebrity boosters from the days — this will tell you how far back it goes — when the brother saviours did not have to be ordered to go to the Parliament buildings.
Back then, and even up to mid-year in 2020 — how time flies — they or their flock of unacknowledged lobbyists whistled around Parliament’s famous echoing corridors, chatting up civil servants, with all the eagerness of those to the manor born. They had better attendance than most MPs.
The annual WE Day events were in retrospect — and to some of us at the time — embarrassing. Thousands and thousands of teenagers, chaperoned by gullible teachers, baited by the presence of dubious pop icons were hustled into big city arenas to receive the WE pitch. ME to WE was the pathetic slogan — being both ungrammatical and vacuous — and under the joint conductorship of middle-aged Marc and Craig, both still speciously hanging on to some edge of Peter Pan youthfulness, it was remorselessly pumped out for the entire day.
They were raw hype, wrapped in a kind of synthetic cheerfulness, coupled with a daunting litany of empty motivational pitches built around fortune cookie-level bromides, and topped with ever more gruesome homilies about making a difference. “Making a difference” is the verbal eucharist of professional do-gooders.
Oh those talks. I have read Brillo Pad instructions that had more genuine inspirational content. My little internet reconnaissance led me to dreary conclusions. Why were six thousand schools in Canada volunteering for the trek up this intellectual molehill? What were school principals thinking, presuming thought was ever involved, when herding their charges off to this mass virtue-signalling jamboree?
And the celebrities? Why were they doing the happy dance at being there? We cut them some slack, it being in the nature of the famous or demi-famous to confuse a high Twitter following with intellectual credibility.
All of this comes to mind now that the Kielburger Potemkin village is under scrutiny and has been summoned to appear before a Parliamentary committee. And it is truly right and proper that they should be so.
They did receive public funding. So Parliament is emphatically the place to call them to account for it. They involved the family of Canada’s prime minister, and his finance minister, the since resigned Bill Morneau, whose daughter worked for WE, and to WE’s missionary sites Morneau, himself travelled and left with some expenses unpaid.
WE also “lobbied” or at the very least dealt with ministers and civil servants at the highest level. They were initially selected to hand out $900 million for the Canada Student Service Grant for a fee of more than $40 million.
So the Kielburger story is a political story as much or more than merely a yarn about a particular “charity.” It is a story involving public money; it is a story about cronyism, friendships with the prime minister and his family, and about special access because of those friendships and involvements.
It is steeped in the conduct of public business, favouritism to causes close to the moment, and the presence of some of Canada’s highest profile public actors enmeshed with private actors.
It is therefore a story on all counts that requires Parliamentary scrutiny. But. BUT. These two wannabe Gandhi’s are laying down conditions for Canada’s Parliament. Two glib salesmen of western do-gooderism are telling Parliament what it may or may not expect from them!
Since the story emerged last year we have heard so little on it from the Trudeaus, or all the eager corporate sponsors and entertainers who so gladly gave their endorsements and money when all was shine.
Most have dropped out with little more than a curt press release, or said nothing at all.
The prime minister himself? Does he now regret he gave WE status and currency? Or, conversely, is he sad he ever showed up on the same stage with so dubious an enterprise? And if not, why not? He might even offer one of his prized apologies for them, apology being such a practiced mode for him.
But it’s the brothers themselves who owe a full explanation and accounting. And as for whether it’s up to them whether they will go to Parliament Hill and meet with the committee ordering their presence — well, who in the hell do they think they are?