Evidence of meeting #12 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was charity.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ian Shugart  Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office
Gina Wilson  Deputy Minister, Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Department of Canadian Heritage
Benoît Robidoux  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Employment and Social Development
Mary Dawson  As an Individual

2:20 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

As the committee knows, there are procedures for returning the funds, and that is part of any contribution agreement. That is standard and would have been followed in this case.

The program did not proceed because WE themselves terminated it in the face of public controversy about the program.

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

And that was as a result, in the Prime Minister's words, of his failure to recuse himself from this process. Those were his words in his testimony.

To follow up on Mr. Poilievre's earlier comments, I also don't support the notion that this is the fault of the public service. I think that cabinet made a decision, cabinet accepted the recommendation of the public service, and I think cabinet members are responsible for this decision.

We've heard parsing from some members of the committee about whether or not something was in bounds or out of bounds with the Conflict of Interest Act. Something being disclosed is simply not enough for it being in the public domain. The act requires that there's a disclosure to the commissioner's office. The act requires formal recusal when there's not a screen set up.

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Mr. Barrett, that's your time. Thank you.

The floor is now Mr. Dong's for two and a half minutes.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Mr. Shugart, I still hear a lot of questioning on the testimonies given by senior public servants with regard to the consideration or perhaps decision-making around CSSG. In your opinion, do you have full faith and confidence in the answers provided thus far by your colleagues and in the integrity of their decision-making?

2:20 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I absolutely do, Chair. I always—and this applies to myself as well as anyone else—admit the possibility of speaking in error and, as I've indicated to any parliamentary committee, including this one, if there is a contradiction or if there is subsequent information that my testimony is in error, I am more than prepared to clarify and explain. That is, to the very best of my knowledge, the ethics that would be followed by any public servant.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

How would you rate the performance of the public service of Canada, considering that we're doing very well compared to the rest of the world in dealing with the pandemic as well as rolling out all these programs to support Canadians and the Canadian economy? How would you rate their performance?

2:20 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Well, it won't surprise you that I think our public service has performed extremely well because it is a very, very solid institution that fits within the context of our parliamentary institutions, which are the envy of much of the world. If I can say that the public service has performed well during this pandemic, and I do, it's because we stand on the shoulders of giants who have built this institution, and I can only hope that we're today building it for our successors, but I would apply that same principle to the House of Commons and all of our institutions.

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Shugart.

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

We'll move on to Madame Gaudreau for two and a half minutes.

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I would like to go back to the government commitment, more specifically in terms of trust.

In your opinion, what level of trust do Canadians have in the government now?

2:20 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I would say that that question is more for the expertise of members of Parliament than for that of public servants. I hope and I believe that, in general, the public trusts our institutions, including the public service. We value evidence, independence and objectivity. Those are the values we espouse. I hope that, if there are deficiencies, we are all responsible for finding solutions.

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

That is where I want to get to, actually. Trust can quickly be earned, but it can unfortunately also be lost. It is a little difficult to earn it back when errors are made.

When there are public aspects, when you want to be transparent—or perhaps to regain that trust—and given the work that you do and your role as clerk and advisor, would it not instead have been valuable to have everything wide open, given the flood of ideas and our need to help Canadians?

What do you think about that?

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I have complete confidence in my colleagues.

No one can bear those responsibilities without a team or without interactions between the various components of our oversight system. We work with that dependence all the time. That is why we are constantly seeking to improve our systems, whether it is the legislative system or the procedural system. However, safeguarding it is something very precious.

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

How come—

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

I'm sorry. Your time is up.

The floor is Mr. Angus's for two and a half minutes.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I just want to follow up on my previous question about who came up with the parameters for the program.

You said NGOs. What NGOs?

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

We are providing a list. I know that Universities Canada was involved in some meetings, the AFN.... There were other groups that were consulted early on with respect to the—

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

How early on?

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

The record will show that, Chair. I would say as early as April.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay, because the changing moment seems to be when Craig Kielburger calls. Are you aware that they're not registered to lobby? Because they signed a contribution agreement that said they followed the Lobbying Act....

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I'm not aware of those details.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay.

Well, that's important, because he calls Minister Morneau's office. Minister Morneau's office tells Rachel Wernick to talk to Craig Kielburger. He meets with Minister Chagger and he meets also with Minister Ng. Then he writes to Rachel Wernick and says that based on the support they've got, they've got one of two programs and they can deliver both of them or one of them. The one they go with is the one that the Prime Minister agrees to. The second proposal is the proposal, so again, in a question of due diligence—

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I have not seen that communication, Chair.

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay. He writes to Rachel Wernick to introduce himself. He says that in the “spirit” of his conversations with Minister Chagger and Minister Ng, “we have proposed two programs” and we're ready to “deliver one or both”. That's his way of getting in.

My question, then, is this. We're talking about a $900-million proposal by a group that is not even registered to lobby but has three key departments and ministers onside before it goes to the civil service. He has the proposal all written up. Where was the due diligence to protect the people of Canada?

2:25 p.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Chair, I'm not prepared to support that construction of events. I have not seen that correspondence, but I think the testimony of officials does not support that construction of events.