Evidence of meeting #22 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd 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

Sofia Marquez  Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual
Reed Cowan  Donor and Fundraiser, Wesley Smiles Coalition, Free The Children, As an Individual

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Are you aware of contact between the WE organization and the Government of Canada with respect to the Canada 150 activities that the WE organization participated in on Parliament Hill?

1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

As I stated in my opening statement, I started with WE Charity in 2017. I believe the Canada 150 event was prior to my starting date at WE, so I would have no direct knowledge or involvement with that contract, per se, either.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Ms. Marquez, I think that's my time. Thanks very much for answering my questions. I appreciate it.

1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Thank you so much.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

I'll turn to Mr. Fergus now for his first round of questions.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Marquez, thank you very much for the comment you made at the beginning of your presentation.

It's unusual for the committee to require a witness to appear. However, we decided to do it because you refused to appear twice. It's unfortunate that it had to come to this, but thank you for being here today.

Ms. Marquez, do you have any information you could share with the committee today that you have not shared with other parliamentary committees in your past appearances?

1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Thank you for your acknowledgement at the beginning of your question.

Since my appearance the first time around before Parliament in August of last year to this point, I have no direct knowledge of any information that has come up whereby I would be helpful in providing any additional information.

My testimony before Parliament last year and here today is my recollection, to the best of my ability and memory, of what I went through and how I experienced working for WE Charity, so I have no other comment.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Do you not have anything new to add to your testimony?

1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

The only thing that I can provide to you is what I already stated in my opening statement. The scope of my job, as I described it, was very well defined, and anything new that would have come up through any other means.... I have no direct knowledge or additional information to provide to this committee, unfortunately, as much as I would like to be helpful.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Ms. Marquez, can you tell us why you think we summoned you to appear here today?

1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I'm sorry; can you repeat that question?

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Can you tell us why you think we summoned you to appear here today?

February 26th, 2021 / 1:15 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

As a former member of WE Charity, acknowledging the title of director of government and stakeholder relations that I held and the communications in which I was obviously involved during the Canada student service grant program, I was deeply involved in those conversations. To me, that's evidence that you may have interest in understanding my involvement, and I'm here to answer any questions that you may have about that particular project.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Thank you.

We met Mr. Perelmuter from Speakers' Spotlight a few months ago. He explained to us how his life had been turned completely upside down due to all the media attention around his company and his ties with WE Charity. He believes he has been a victim of "abuse", if I may use the term figuratively, because he feels the opposition parties publicly harassed him.

Can you tell us if you have had a similar experience?

Could you share with us your experience as someone who is now in the public eye?

1:20 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

Thank you for your question.

I can't speak to any other individual's experiences and the very personal comment brought to light, but I can speak as it pertains to my involvement and how I feel around being brought to this committee or any other committee to bring forward my perspective and my part in everything that had to do with the Canada student service grant.

I'm happy to provide any information possible, and at no time did I feel that any MP or anybody had harassed me or did I have any type of qualification of that sort.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

I wasn't saying you were harassed by any members of Parliament.

1:20 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

I'm sorry; maybe that's what I misheard from the translation. My bad, if that was the case.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you so much, Mr. Fergus.

We'll turn to Madame Gaudreau now for her first round of questions.

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Marquez, I'm going to speak slowly, even though every second counts for me.

Thank you for being here today.

I attended the Standing Committee on Finance meeting, and I'd like to check a few things with you so that we can shed some light on certain facts. I know you had some research to do as well, about your telephone calls, for example.

I have a few questions for you, about April 20, among other things.

On August 13, you said that you needed to check your call log to see if there had been a call on April 20. Did you do that, and did you verify that information?

It's a crucial date, in our opinion. We're talking about a call on April 20 with the Department of Employment and Social Development and the Department of Finance.

1:20 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

From what I can best recall, I can't seem to recall that there was a specific meeting on the 20th that I can confirm. If you have that information at hand or an email that you can share, perhaps I can shed some light into what I can remember, but I don't seem to recall that.

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Okay, I'll move on to my other questions.

On May 5, you were in contact with the Prime Minister's Office, on a 30-minute telephone call with Ms. Lebel and Mr. Theis.

Could you reconfirm that?

1:20 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

What I can confirm is that I was only on a phone call with Mr. Theis. I can't recall the other person's name. I haven't met that person, as a matter of fact.

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Earlier, when we asked you if you had been in contact with staff in Mr. Morneau's office since March 1, you said that you had been in contact with Mr. Amit Singh and Ms. Michelle Kovacevic. Is that correct?

1:25 p.m.

Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual

Sofia Marquez

That is correct.

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

All right.

I'm going to ask you a question with a slightly broader scope.

You were director of government and stakeholder relations. You have expertise in that area. With all due respect, am I right in thinking that it's important for lobbyists to be vigilant so that they can be transparent and remain neutral? In concrete terms, should lobbyists ensure that they are registered with the federal Registry of Lobbyists?

Although it was not your main task, can you tell us what percentage of your duties were devoted to lobbying?

Am I being overly vigilant in asking the question? Should you have done that to ensure that you would not end up here today?