Evidence of meeting #43 for Finance 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

Paulette Senior  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Women's Foundation
Rahul O. Singh  Executive Director, GlobalMedic
Vivian Krause  Researcher and Writer, As an Individual
Jesse Brown  Publisher, CANADALAND, As an Individual
Michelle Kovacevic  Assistant Deputy Minister, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Evelyn Lukyniuk

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, as I've said, I looked back in a detailed fashion over my records. I found that we received no expenses notice for these expenses. As soon as we found that out, we endeavoured to make sure those payments were made. It's a mistake. I will—

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

All right. Thank you very much.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

—and actually should work with the Ethics Commissioner.

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Did you, in the month of August 2019, announce a grant for WE Charity for $3 million in the same month that your daughter accepted a job from that organization, yes or no?

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Minister.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think it's important to know that this program, which I did announce, was developed and delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada—

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

It's a simple question.

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

As the person who is responsible for that organization in the riding, I did announce that program.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Then you announced a $3-million grant to an organization that had just hired your daughter the very same month. Is that a true statement or false statement?

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Go ahead, Mr. Minister.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I want to be very clear that this is a program that was developed—

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Is it true or false?

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

The minister has the floor.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

—and delivered by Employment and Social Development Canada.

I announced it on behalf of our government, but was not involved in the development of that program.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Your daughter accepted a position with that organization.

July 22nd, 2020 / 2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

This is the last question, Pierre.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

In the same month as your daughter accepted a position with the organization, you announced a $3-million grant to that organization. You can just tell me if I'm wrong. Am I wrong?

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I'm obviously very proud of the fact that Grace took on a co-op job at the WE organization.

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

That's not the question.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I'm proud of the fact that she, of her own accord, went out and got a first job in an administrative capacity. Obviously, my role as a minister is separate and distinct from that. I did deliver an announcement, but I was not involved in the development or the understanding of that program.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you both.

We'll go to Ms. Koutrakis, followed by Mr. Fortin.

Ms. Koutrakis.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Minister Morneau, for appearing before the finance committee once again.

I truly appreciate the candour in your testimony and all the work that you and your family and our civil servants and the Department of Finance do for all Canadians, especially during this difficult time.

I have a few questions, so in the interest of time, I will ask them all and leave it with you, Minister, to formulate your response.

How many new programs have you and your department rolled out in the past 100 days or so?

What is the approximate value of these programs?

Roughly how many Canadians and Canadian businesses and non-profit organizations have these programs helped?

Does this compare to anything remotely similar to what we've done since the full mobilization of Canada's economy and society during the Second World War 80 years ago?

Would it also be fair to say that if we had not introduced these programs, there would be a lot of personal suffering and hardship?

Would it also be fair to say that our economy would be in a serious recession or depression if the government hadn't acted as quickly and decisively as it did?

Finally, as a financial person myself, I would say that our success rate has been remarkably high and that the risk-reward profile is extremely positive. The only way to achieve anything is to take risks. To avoid all risks of failure and making mistakes during as well would mean doing nothing and accepting all the personal hardships imposed on innocent Canadians that would result.

Do you agree with my comments?

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Mr. Minister, I hope you had a pen in your hand, because I could hardly keep up and I had one.

Go ahead, Mr. Minister.

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Morneau Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Thank you. I did have a pen.

I think I need to start by acknowledging that I did make a mistake with respect to the lack of decision to recuse myself from the decision around the WE organization.

I think I also need to acknowledge that not every single thing that our government has done over the course of the last few months was perfect. We have been, as was just mentioned, working during a time of crisis, in a pandemic, a time like none of us had ever faced before.

The answer to the last question is quite clear. We knew we needed to move at speed and with scale to support Canadians. We knew that we needed to do our very best analysis on what the right policy would be and how to best get that support out to Canadians. We also knew that, as we moved forward, we would almost certainly have to fix things and improve things as we went along.

That was the approach we took. I think that the response we've had as a country—which, in answer to the direct question, involved more than 70 programs and over $200 billion of direct support to Canadians—has put us in a much better situation than we would have been in had we not taken that approach. It has delivered for individuals and for families, and it has protected our economy for today and for the future. The risks of not doing so would have been dramatically greater—for individuals and for families struggling to get by, but also for our long-term future and our opportunities.

I do recognize that there is more that we need to do, but this is an unprecedented time. We are going to continue to consider the needs of Canadians first, deliver the kind of support required and improve things as we go along. Yes, we will make mistakes. We will try not to make mistakes—of course, that's never our intent—but we will rectify those mistakes as we think about the next steps.

This pandemic is not over. We know there's more work to be done, and we need to keep our focus on that and on Canadians.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Annie Koutrakis Liberal Vimy, QC

Do I have time for one more, Mr. Chair?