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

1:45 p.m.

Labour and Class Actions Lawyer, Goldblatt Partners LLP, As an Individual

Joshua Mandryk

Maybe I could go back and find some of my tweets about this point, but in the past weeks I've spoken with a number of journalists about this. I was very happy to take the opportunity to participate here. I've talked with colleagues and others.

I'm also a very busy lawyer who has a practice, and I work 55 hours a week during the pandemic.

There are all sorts of reasons.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

That's fair enough.

1:45 p.m.

Labour and Class Actions Lawyer, Goldblatt Partners LLP, As an Individual

Joshua Mandryk

I'm here now for the questions you have, sir.

July 21st, 2020 / 1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

That's great.

I think that information would have been so much more relevant earlier on for our finance committee to consider, regardless of whether it was WE or another organization.

Mr. Aylward, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people who are singing the praises of our public service.

The reality of the situation is this, sir. We went from the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic to having money in the bank accounts of 5.4 million people in a month and four days.

The reality is you can have all the politicians come up with all the great ideas they might have, but if you don't have such a dedicated public service willing to work overtime, willing to do what's necessary to deliver on that, the program would have never happened. Politicians come and go, but our public service is the backbone and their institutional knowledge helps to deliver that, so thank you. Please, I hope you share with the public service the position that I believe all committee members have on this.

Why do you think the senior public service management made the decision that outsourcing was the only option?

1:50 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Chris Aylward

Mr. Gerretsen, I can't answer that in a very honest way.

All I can tell you is that I've checked with our members at ESDC to see if anybody there was consulted and, to my knowledge, nobody there was spoken to about a new program and do we have the capacity, can we do this, how effective, how efficiently we can do this? That wasn't discussed with any of my members, to my knowledge anyway.

Why that decision was made, I can't answer. It's a question I've asked as to who made the determination that we don't have the capacity within the federal public service to deliver this program.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

As a lesson I learned, I guess you're saying that we need to make sure that question is asked in the future.

1:50 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Chris Aylward

I believe so, just as it should have been asked during the introduction of the Phoenix pay system, where the union and the workers should have been—

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

As you would know, Kingston and the Islands has a lot of public servants, and we are very familiar with that program.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

1:50 p.m.

National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Chris Aylward

Thank you, Mr. Gerretsen. I know you have met with many members of the PSAC, and I thank you for that.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Thanks.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

Turning to the last round, it will be Mr. Julian who will wrap it up.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My last questions are for you, Mr. Lapointe. We talked about the fact that the program was not at all in keeping with the applicable federal legislation, mainly in the areas of privacy, transparency and official languages—all of which are respected when the public service is responsible for a program.

When a program is contracted to an organization outside the public service, what would you say the consequences are for bilingualism, privacy and transparency, things that usually govern the spending of public money?

1:50 p.m.

President, Focus OSBL Consulting Service, As an Individual

Daniel Lapointe

In my experience, contribution agreements, those voluminous contracts the government enters into with an independent entity, whatever the organization may be—which I, myself, have signed—normally address those statutory and regulatory elements you referred to. That means the organization to which the work is being contracted out has an obligation to comply with the legislation.

Now, to be clear, I don't know more than anyone else about the content of any agreement that may have been negotiated with WE Charity. I have no knowledge of that. Nevertheless, generally speaking, that's how contribution agreements usually work.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

The problem is that we, ourselves, don't know. We've asked for the information, of course. This is our second meeting on the issue. A few days ago, we learned that no process was carried out to verify the information, so it will be helpful to know what was agreed to.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for allowing me to ask one last question.

Mr. Lapointe, do you agree with those who have raised concerns about young people being exploited? The program does not offer minimum wage or adhere to labour standards, both of which are in force across the country.

1:55 p.m.

President, Focus OSBL Consulting Service, As an Individual

Daniel Lapointe

Those are important considerations, yes, but even before you worry about that, the most important thing to consider, right off the top, is the disconnect between the program and the definition, or the spirit, even, of volunteering. Students are receiving non-token payments in compensation for a certain number of volunteer hours.

I've headed several organizations that relied on the support of a large number of volunteers. As others have mentioned today, occasionally, volunteers receive some form of compensation as a token gesture. It might be free coffee, an annual event or something of that nature. Therefore, I would say, even before you look at the program through the legislative lens and the indirect effect of bypassing labour laws, you should consider that compensating people for volunteering is, from the outset, at odds with the principle of volunteering. It doesn't matter that the compensation is in the form of $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000 lump sums.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you.

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We thank you for that.

I certainly want to thank all the witnesses for coming today and taking the time to answer our questions. I know that you're all busy people in these times. Certainly, there were some disagreements, but I've always found that disagreements often lead to better public policies, so there isn't a problem with having some disagreements, at least before this committee.

I'll just give a heads-up for members. Tomorrow will be a bit of a different day in that we will have a regular meeting from 12 p.m. Ottawa time to 2 p.m. Then we will suspend for an hour and have Mr. Morneau from 3 p.m. Ottawa time to 4 p.m. I understand that he has to be at question period, I think, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., but in any event, it will take us four hours to do three hours of meeting. That's not efficient, I guess, but it's what it will be.

With that, thank you, all, once again. We'll see you tomorrow.

The meeting is adjourned.