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

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I have no information, either indirect or direct, about that call.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

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

Would you undertake to find information for this committee?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I sure can.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Minister.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

The floor is Mr. Dong's for six minutes.

August 11th, 2020 / 3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you, Minister, for agreeing to testify at the committee.

Before I begin my questions I just want to thank you for all the hard work you've done in the last few months. I have spoken to many constituents of Don Valley North. They want me to pass on their sincere gratitude for the work you've done, and staff in your department as well. Just so you know, I know you can't see us, but I have a lot of nodding heads around the committee table.

On the Canada summer jobs program, which is in high demand, I wonder if there was any discussion on why the government didn't just double down on the Canada summer jobs program instead of creating a new program, the CSSG. We know certainly the demand is there and it is being delivered by many good grassroots organizations. Can you explain why the government didn't run this through the Canada summer jobs program?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I know that a lot has been said over the past weeks about why Canada summer jobs didn't just do this. You know, we modernized the Canada summer jobs program to reflect the realities faced by COVID, and we did increase funding to increase the number of jobs from 70,000 to 80,000 jobs this year. We created tens of thousands of other jobs through other student employment programs. I know what a successful program this is. I know that businesses like it, students like it and MPs like it.

Here's how Canada summer jobs works. We set objectives, we assess jobs against those objectives, we fund jobs that meet those objectives and then we post the jobs. We don't help individuals find these jobs. When ESDC wants to provide a more direct support to individuals, we always do it through a third party using a contribution agreement. Think of the YESS program, the youth employment and skills strategy. We fund local organizations to help youth at risk get jobs and flourish in these jobs.

The CSSG was different from Canada summer jobs. The goal, as I said in my opening remarks, was to provide young people with meaningful opportunities and also to help with the capacity issues that non-profits were facing. The organization that was delivering this program would be doing a lot of one-on-one with young people through screening, onboarding, training and mentoring. They would be tracking volunteer hours and distributing grants.

As much as this was a capacity issue, as I said, Canada summer jobs actually isn't built for, and the ESDC isn't in the business of doing, this kind of thing. I hope that makes sense.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you, Minister. It does make sense to me.

You brought up the issue of a contribution agreement, which I asked the Clerk of the Privy Council about earlier today. From your perspective, are contribution agreements unethical, or is it common practice by the government to have a third party deliver whole programs?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Contribution agreements are extremely common. I'll bet you there are thousands of contribution agreements. I think Benoît could give you an exact number. Governments for decades have been using this as a way to get money to individuals through third parties that have better ways of doing this relationship-wise or in connections to communities.

We enter into a contribution agreement with an organization, and then it provides the support directly to individuals. I don't even know what else to say, it's so common.

As I said in my opening remarks, we did this for the community support fund and we did this for the women's shelter fund during the pandemic alone, but it really is a common tool that governments use. It's a very effective form of agreement with an organization.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

You don't think contribution agreements are unethical, like some people seem to be suggesting.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I don't at all. I think they allow us to get closer to people on the ground.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Okay.

I heard earlier that the Canada student service grant was developed by Employment and Social Development Canada. However, this didn't fall under your oversight. Can you explain why CSSG was under the purview of another minister, under Minister Chagger?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Yes. I don't want to say what I have already said, but very quickly, our cabinet was sworn in. We got our mandate letters. Minister Chagger got the Canada Service Corps and I got youth employment. That's how we worked from the beginning. Minister Chagger had the Canada Service Corps and I had all the other youth employment programs. Then, as I said, there was an order in council on March 6 that made Minister Chagger an ESDC minister.

In terms of the student measures, at least five other ministers were involved in the student measures. There was me, Minister Chagger, the immigration minister, the indigenous services minister, the ISED minister, the Minister of Finance, the President of the Treasury Board. As everybody has said, this was a really big package worth a lot of money. Many of us were involved.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

So all these five ministers had a hand in your department. Do they report to you? Do they share with you what they're working on? Do they need your permission to go ahead and develop their programs?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Let me clarify that the five ministers—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

You have 10 seconds.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Okay: different five ministers, but no, we all have our lanes in ESDC.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Han Dong Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Thank you, Minister.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

The floor is Mr. Fortin's.

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Good afternoon, Madam Minister.

In your testimony just now, you said that you personally had not seen a report on the due diligence into WE Charity but that you supposed it had been done and a report had been prepared. Do I understand correctly?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Yes. What I said—and I'll clarify if it was unclear—is that I did not see the due diligence report on WE, but based on my reading of the materials that were presented at committee, and then eventually at cabinet, I understood that there were no red flags with respect to due diligence.

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

To your knowledge, who has seen this darned report? You are not the only one to tell us that. Everyone is telling us that they suppose due diligence was done, but no one seems to have seen the report.

Can you enlighten us about that? Who has seen the due diligence report?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

It's a good question, and I would perhaps defer to Benoît. I don't know if it's actually called a “due diligence report”, so I don't want to create a construct that doesn't actually exist.

Benoît, can you talk about the due diligence that would have gone into the recommendation of the public service?

4 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Minister, am I to understand that you agreed with the contribution agreement being entrusted to WE Charity?

4 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

At that point, did you know that WE Charity would not be getting a contract with the government. It would be the WE Charity Foundation instead?