Evidence of meeting #42 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was students.

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
Daniel Lapointe  President, Focus OSBL Consulting Service, As an Individual
Joshua Mandryk  Labour and Class Actions Lawyer, Goldblatt Partners LLP, As an Individual
Chris Aylward  National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We'll officially call the meeting to order.

Welcome, all, to meeting number 42 and the first panel of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance today. We are meeting on government spending, the WE Charity and the Canada student service grant. Today's meeting is taking place by video conference, and the proceedings will be made available by the House of Commons website.

We're fortunate to have with us the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet in this first hour, Mr. Shugart.

Welcome, sir. I don't believe you have an opening statement. If you do, that's fine. If you don't, we will go to questions.

I have a heads-up for questions by members. The lineup for the first six-minute round will be Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Fragiskatos, Mr. Fortin and Mr. Julian.

Mr. Shugart, the floor is yours.

11 a.m.

Ian Shugart Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Thank you very much, Chair and members of the committee. I'm glad to be here with you today.

You're correct, Chair. I do not have an opening statement. I'm here to answer your questions to the best of my ability and, Chair, I would suggest we get right at it.

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

That sounds good.

Mr. Poilievre, are you ready to roll?

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

I am.

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You're first up, for six minutes. The floors is yours.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you, Clerk Shugart, for your service to Canada. You are an excellent public servant and we're happy to have you here.

Speaking of the public service, when it recommends a nearly billion-dollar contribution agreement, does the public service do due diligence on the financial integrity of the recipient? That would be a yes or a no.

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

In general, yes.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

In this case of the WE Charity, Kate Behan of Charity Intelligence said of WE Charity's finances that when you scratch beneath the surface there are lots of red flags. Did anyone in the public service raise these red flags?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Not to my knowledge, Chair.

I would say that the due diligence is carried out primarily through the negotiation or the development of a contribution agreement, which was certainly done in this case. If there were obvious problems related to an organization that were related to the ability of the organization to carry out the objectives of the program—

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Right—

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

—that would be—

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

—but there were no red flags.

Did anyone in the public service flag the publicly released audit that showed WE Charity was in breach of a 2018 bank covenant?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Not to my knowledge, sir, no.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did you discuss with the Prime Minister the WE Charity contribution agreement or the involvement of WE in this program before the proposal went to cabinet?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I did not personally have those discussions, Chair. I think it would be helpful for the committee to understand, and I'll be very brief about this, that the clerk is not always in the room where the decisions—

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did anyone in the PCO?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Yes, PCO definitely. Definitely.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

On what dates?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

There were briefings of the Prime Minister and the PCO before cabinet meetings. There was a briefing with the Prime Minister and PCO on May 21, for example. There may have been an earlier discussion upstream in the development of the program with the Prime Minister.

11 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

What date?

11 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

I'll have to get the date to you.

I'm happy, by the way, Chair, to provide extensive documentation, including timelines, to the committee, which I'm sure will assist the committee in its work.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Thank you, sir. We're looking for all the dates on which the Prime Minister and any member of the PCO discussed the Canada student service grant or the WE Charity. Did you ever discuss the WE Charity or any of its related organizations with the Prime Minister, yes or no?

July 21st, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

Personally, no.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Are you aware of any of your members of the PCO doing the same?

11:05 a.m.

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Privy Council Office

Ian Shugart

In the context of the suitability of a third party, and specifically the WE Charity as the third party, this was part of the cabinet discussion, and yes, the PM was briefed by PCO on it.