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

1:25 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

To answer your question, the only way to truly estimate how much time I spent on activities that would then also be classified under the Lobbying Act would be for me to reconstruct my activities based on my calendar. As I stated before, that information is with my previous employer.

If you're asking about my estimation, I would say that I would not ever have exceeded more than 20% of my time at any point of time—during some periods as little as 5%—as it pertains specifically to the federal government. I would like to—

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Chair, I know I'm losing time to allow for interpreting, so I feel I can ask one last question.

Ms. Marquez, you may not consider 20%—or 5%—of your time to be a high percentage, but would it not have been appropriate to ensure that you were in the Registry and report your lobbying activities to be fully transparent about your communications and conversations?

1:25 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

As I mentioned, my role evolved naturally, as I was doing it. Through that natural job transition, I wouldn't have tracked specifically and thoroughly. In hindsight, I would see how that could have been helpful, but as I mentioned, at the end of my tenure in July of last year, I did provide all of my activities and the time spent on lobbying, and in general in other activities, to my employer. They would have been tasked, and responsible, to submit and register for lobbying, as they have already.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

They did not do that.

1:25 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

Sorry; is that a question?

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It was my last question. Did they register you or not?

February 26th, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

I wouldn't be able to assess and say whether WE Charity recorded or not my time. I provided all the information to WE Charity. That should be appropriately reflected in the lobbying registration, to my understanding.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We'll turn to Mr. Angus now for his first round.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Madam Marquez, for participating in these discussions. I just want to say very clearly that our issuing a summons for you was not about our saying you've broken any laws or done anything wrong. You worked for an organization that had the duty, the obligation, to follow the Lobbying Act. Our questions for you are very much about just clarifying some issues so that we can get a better picture. I thank you very much for coming today.

The moment the WE group did register to lobby was after questions became very public about whether or not it had engaged in illegal lobbying by not registering. It lists, I think, 65 meetings and engagements with government during that time, when you were the director of government relations. A number of people were involved in that. It seems that it was a busy enough portfolio.

I note that prior to the pandemic, the group was looking to hire a manager of government relations. You would have been director of government relations. They were looking to hire a manager of government relations. Would that person have worked under you or under Craig and Marc Kielburger, or under both?

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

That is correct. That person would have worked under me.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Then WE would have had a director and a manager, which again suggests to me that this was a pretty serious part of the operation.

What I notice about the meetings is that none of the contacts with Minister Qualtrough or Minister Chagger to confirm their participation in the WE Day events are mentioned in the lobbying, nor are any of the events that Mr. Morneau engaged in with the Kielburger group. They are not listed under the Lobbying Act.

Was it your responsibility to reach out to public officials like Minister Chagger when she was going to be asked to be a WE Day participant? Was that your responsibility or Marc Kielburger's?

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

Thank you for your question.

I wouldn't be tasked to draft or to send out official invitations for WE Days directly. That would have come from one of the co-founders, Marc or Craig Kielburger.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Right.

I know that Marc and Craig had chiefs of staff paid for by the WE Charity who were paid over $100,000 a year. It would have been, say, Marc's chief of staff who would have reached out, and it was not just an invitation to WE Day, but they would have had to arrange for Minister Chagger to be there and Minister Qualtrough to be there. My understanding—you can correct me if I'm wrong—is that it would have been done under Marc's purview.

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

That could have been under Marc's or Craig's purview, to my understanding.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you for that. Neither of them is registered to lobby, but I think that's again part of the issue that we're dealing with here.

On April 9, Craig Kielburger reached out directly to Minister Morneau on the $12-million youth entrepreneurship grant you talked about: “Hi Bill, I hope this finds you, Nancy, Henry, Claire, Edward and Grace enjoying some well-deserved downtime over Easter together.” That was the beginning of the discussion of the $12-million grant. Would it have been common for Craig to have reached out himself when you were actually the director of government relations? Wouldn't it have been you to reach out to Minister Morneau first?

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

Thank you for your question.

I don't have a recollection of being part of that conversation. Can you confirm whether that was only solely sent by Craig, or was I involved?

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Well, this is what we're trying to figure out. If Craig sent it to Minister Morneau and Minister Morneau signed off on it 11 days later, it strikes me as an extremely quick turnaround time. In those 11 days between Craig's sending a request for $12 million and it being mentioned in the April 22 announcement and Minister Morneau verbally signing off on it, were you involved in those discussions?

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

I was not involved, nor was I aware that Minister Morneau had approved that proposal to move forward, and if I wasn't part of the email you're mentioning, then I probably wasn't in the loop on that specific item.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Okay. Then when Minister Morneau speaks to Craig on this, and Craig can confirm that they talked about this entrepreneurship on, I think, April 26, you wouldn't have been part of that either.

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

I'm sorry. Are you referring to the April—

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Craig said that in the April 26 phone call with Minister Bill Morneau, they discussed the entrepreneurship grant. In this moving of the $12 million, which is listed as the $900 million plus $12 million—it's the $912 million that they announced—would that have all been Craig handling that himself and not you as a director of government relations?

1:30 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

The call that you're specifically alluding to I was not part of.