By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing his third conflict of interest probe, after Canada's ethics commissioner on Friday launched an inquiry into a government contract awarded to a charity that Trudeau has family ties to.
Ethics commissioner Mario Dion's office said it will look into whether in picking WE Charity Canada to administer a C$900 million (532.2 million pounds) student grant program Trudeau broke rules that prohibit politicians from making, or participating in, decisions that further their personal interests.
Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau have regularly participated in WE Charity events, and Gregoire Trudeau hosts a podcast on the charity's website.
Canada's main opposition Conservative Party had requested the probe.
WE Charity is no longer managing the grant program, which will provide up to C$5,000 to post-secondary students who do volunteer work. It was introduced because the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult or impossible for many students to get summer jobs.
WE Charity said in a statement on its website the program had been "enmeshed with controversy" since it was announced, and for the good of the program it was best to let the government take over management.
The government said the charity would not profit from its involvement. Trudeau said on Monday that WE Charity was the only group in Canada with the "capacity to deliver the ambitious program."
The ethics commissioner will also investigate whether that statement showed that Trudeau had afforded preferential treatment to WE Charity over other national charities.
Trudeau has twice before been sanctioned by the country’s ethics commissioner for breaking conflict of interest rules. The first time was in 2017 for accepting a vacation on the Aga Khan's private island a year earlier, and the second was last year for seeking to influence a corporate legal case.
(Additional reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Chris Reese and Daniel Wallis)