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

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I have enormous respect for your work here. My question is that in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic did we really need to follow up with the Prime Minister's passion of volunteerism? That was not what we were hearing from anybody.

I want to ask you about due diligence. With the Canada summer jobs we went through organization after organization trying to fill numerous forms for your officials to assure safety and yet we learn that the Kielburgers were offering $25,000 to summer camps if they could get 75 volunteers signed up. I don't know how that would be possible in the middle of a pandemic. Did you do due diligence on this? Did you say this is not how we do it at Canada summer jobs, this payout to sign up camp counsellors in the middle of a pandemic? Who signed off on that?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I was not involved in that level of detail. Again, I wasn't the file lead on this. I don't know the context and certainly wasn't party to those discussions. I have really nothing to offer in response to that.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay.

We've been told again and again, that our civil service couldn't do the job, but the civil service under you would have asked questions—what do you mean, you're going to be paying camps to sign up camp counsellors in the middle of a pandemic?

I would like to talk about the $12,000 per teacher that was being offered. I'm a former school board trustee. If you are telling teachers to reach out to students and you'll pay them cash, that violates multiple codes. I can't see the civil service signing off on that, and yet this was part of the Kielburger deal. Who signed off on this? Who did the due diligence on this? We're talking about legal questions.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Absolutely. Again, I wasn't involved at that level of detail. The details you've just referred to certainly weren't part of the work within the level of detail that I saw on May 5.

Certainly there are mechanisms within the public service, though, to follow up on that kind of thing and that's what's built into the contribution agreements. But again, it's out of my lane, and I apologize. It's too hard for me to speculate in any kind of helpful way.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I appreciate that. I think if it had been in your lane, those questions would have been asked because, to me, these are really fundamentals and this is the problem that we have: serious red flags.

I go to this contribution agreement that WE.... Everybody felt comfortable with WE because you guys were invited to a lot of their events. I'm not saying you did anything wrong, but they created a comfort level in WE. We look at their contribution agreements: we're looking at a $40,000 deal, a $24,990 deal, a $17,050 deal, a $13,000 deal with the government. One goes up to $3 million, but most of them are really peanuts. The government was more than comfortable with the Kielburgers because you guys all spoke at their events; they called up the ministers. They weren't even registered to lobby.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you, Mr. Angus.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

My final question is this. You do due diligence on your file. Don't you feel that if we had done more due diligence we wouldn't be in this debacle—

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you, Mr. Angus.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

—right now?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

I am going to turn the floor over to Mr. Poilievre for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

On what date did Minister Chagger get the order in council powers to sign contribution agreements on behalf of your department?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

The order in council is dated March 6.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

I find it astonishing that you didn't know anything about the details of a billion-dollar program in your department until you got to the cabinet meeting where that proposal was presented.

I was the minister in your department back in 2015. If a billion-dollar program in my department were going to cabinet, I would have known about it before it got there.

Just to confirm, you knew nothing about the decision to give this program to WE until it got to cabinet. Is that what you're telling us?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I knew about the parameters of the program, as I've testified. I did not know who was being recommended to deliver the program until I was briefed on May 5.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

That's an astonishing admission, that you would have.... I think it's political malpractice that the minister responsible for the department wouldn't have known about a billion-dollar program her department was administering.

At the May 5 cabinet meeting, was anyone from the Prime Minister's Office present?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I cannot recall.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

All right.

When the contribution agreement to flow half a billion dollars through WE was signed, did you see that agreement before it was signed by Ms. Chagger?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Mr. Poilievre, I don't see the contribution agreements in front of any of the other ministers to whom I have delegated that level of authority. In the same way, I don't see contribution agreements within Minister Blair's department either. They're full ministers with their own lines of responsibility.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

The difference is that Minister Blair has a different department. This was your department. Your department's letterhead was on this agreement and, again, it's astonishing that the minister responsible for that department would not be up to date on a contribution agreement of this magnitude. We're not talking about a small $25,000 grant. We're talking about half a billion dollars and you've really got to ask yourself who is running the show in this government if the ministers responsible for a department don't even see the details of such proposals before the money goes out the door.

You listed the things that this Canada student service grant was supposed to do: track hours of youth, train youth and so-call “onboard” them to organizations. The Canada summer jobs program does all those things. It delegates them through charities, small businesses and other groups. Can you name even one thing that the Canada summer jobs program could not do that the WE brothers could?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

First of all, Canada summer jobs does not help individuals get the jobs like the CSSG was going to do for students, whether it be help preparing resumés, help with training, help getting ready for the interview or acting as mentors. The other thing that was very real in the non-profit sector at this time was lack of capacity. They were saying that, even if they could get five people, they didn't have time to onboard them, train them and oversee them meaningfully. This was what the delivering organization was going to do for a non-profit for capacity in that sector. It was much more hands-on than anything done with the Canada summer jobs.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

That's just false, because the non-profits that deliver the Canada summer jobs program across the country do all of those things. Every single year they hire young people, they train them how to do their jobs, they tell them the hours they're supposed to work, they track those hours and they file reports with all of that information.

Everything you've just listed is done by not-for-profits through the Canada summer jobs program. The only difference is that it has a real word, “jobs”, rather than a fake oxymoronic term, “paid volunteer”. Really, you haven't given us a single reason the program that already exists could not have delivered what you were supposedly trying to accomplish with the Canada student student grant.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I believe that I have, in addition to the stretched capacity within the public service itself. I respectfully disagree that these programs weren't significantly different. I respect that you don't see it that way, and I don't know what more I can add.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Your claims so far are not credible. The idea that the WE brothers' foundation was going to teach and train a young person in Red Deer how to do work at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter from afar by email, Skype or something is simply not credible. Of course, that training would have happened by the local organization itself, just as it does with the Canada summer jobs program.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rachael Harder

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

What would we have done that these organizations could not have done for themselves?