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

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Élisabeth Brière Liberal Sherbrooke, QC

What are the comments about the fact that the program has not actually been launched?

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

We've received numerous emails and comments. We've seen the report in the media as well.

The Canada student service grant was an additional program. We have put out a series of programs to help students during this pandemic, recognizing that they also need supports. We also know that students are part of the solution. Right now we know that Canadians are hurting; communities are hurting.

We promote service. I myself know that growing up, I would not have been able to have the experience I had without volunteer opportunities. Volunteering, serving our communities is another way—

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Minister Chagger, thank you.

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

—to develop and strengthen skills. It's an important aspect of the programs we're delivering. It's really unfortunate and regrettable that it is not.

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

We're moving to Mr. Fortin for six minutes.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Good afternoon, Madam Minister.

Earlier, you told my Conservative colleague that you do not know how much money has been sent to WE Charity and how much money the organization has returned. Did I understand correctly?

You have no idea about the amount of money that has passed between the government and WE Charity since this spring. Is that correct?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Chair, it's not that we don't know how much money. We can share the details on the money that has been released: $30 million has been released to the organization through the contribution agreement. I was not aware of how much money has been returned. I have offered to provide that information to the committee.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you, Madam Minister. That is kind of you and I am grateful.

If I understand correctly, you will be able to send us the information about the exact amounts that have been sent and the amounts that have been returned. Is that correct?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Yes. I will make sure you have that information.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you very much.

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

We know that the first cohort had an amount attributed to it through the contribution agreement, which members have received.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

So you will send us the figures.

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Then there was the supplemental cohort—

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I have a time problem, Minister.

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

That's exactly why I'm responding in English. I understand you get extra time for translation.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Thank you.

When answering a question earlier, you replied that you have had speaking engagements for WE Charity without checking whether it was on the Registry of Lobbyists. You said that, in your opinion, it was not your responsibility to find out that information.

Did you actually say that it is not your responsibility to check whether WE Charity was in the registry?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Chair, I responded that I understand it is the responsibility of the lobbyists to report their lobbying activities.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

So you did not think that it was your responsibility to verify that information. Is that correct?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Chair, I have responsibilities to my stakeholders. I have responsibilities to the people who have elected me to represent them. I take my responsibilities very seriously.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

You have a lot of responsibilities, but do they not include responsibility with regard to the registry?

Did you ask the Commissioner of Lobbying whether, as a minister, you had the responsibility to make sure that the people coming to see you are properly registered in the Registry of Lobbyists? Did you verify that with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Any time I need information from the Ethics Commissioner, I make sure to write to the Ethics Commissioner or have my team do so, so that we can receive that information. Similarly, in ensuring understanding of what I am able to share today and so forth, I made sure that I had that information. I take my responsibilities very seriously.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

I will repeat my question: did you check with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner or the Commissioner of Lobbying whether you had a responsibility to check the registry? Did you ask for an opinion?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

In this situation, I did not contact either of them on whether I could talk to a youth organization or not. As Minister of Youth I keep an open-door policy. I speak to numerous organizations. I think it's important that we be available and accessible to organizations so that we can hear not only their concerns but also their solutions. I will be accessible to Canadians.

3 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Okay, thank you, Minister.

I am sorry, I don't want to rush you, but I just have a few minutes. You are nice, but time is not on my side.

Madam Minister, to your knowledge, what checking did you do into the financial viability of the organization to which you were supposed to entrust this mandate, that being WE Charity?

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Chair, I will ask my Deputy Minister.