Evidence of meeting #51 for Finance in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was youth.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dalal Al-Waheidi  Executive Director, WE Charity
Scott Baker  Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity
Sofia Marquez  Former Staff Member, Government and Stakeholder Relations, WE Charity, As an Individual
John-Frederick Cameron  Chief Executive Officer, Katimavik

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Kielburger and Mr. Morneau spoke.

3:55 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

I didn't have that context, no.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

You didn't know that had happened?

3:55 p.m.

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

Sofia Marquez

No, I did not have that context.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Finally, back to Mr. Baker, can you tell me why the contribution agreement was backdated specifically to May 5? I'm not interested in knowing why it was backdated generally; I know how that works, but why was that specific date, May 5, picked for the backdating?

3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

I'm just going to jump in here, if I may.

During this week, there were multiple conversations about program design, and WE, as an organization, had taken the risk to start working on this because the scope of the project kept on changing.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Why was it May 5?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

You're done, Pierre. We're going to have an answer to the question, because you're well over time, and then Mr. McLeod will wrap it up. I hope the guests will stay for three more minutes.

Go ahead, Ms. Al-Waheidi.

3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

Yes, I answered the question. I'm finished, Mr. Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

What's your point of order?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

The question was: Why May 5? I'm just wondering if you can ask the witness to answer that question. Why was it that date?

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

It's not a point of order, but if you could further expand on why it was May 5, go ahead, Ms. Al-Waheidi.

August 13th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

It's the same answer. We had started generally that week to work on the program design, the operation and what would that look like. The scope kept on changing. Timelines were aggressive. That week, we started mobilizing to work, and we took, as an organization, the risk because we wanted to help students, and we believed in the essence of the program.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Thank you, all.

Mr. McLeod, you'll wrap it up.

For our witnesses, we will go about four minutes over your hour.

Go ahead, Mr. McLeod.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you to the witnesses. I appreciate all the responses to the questions that have been provided. A lot of the questions are starting to become repetitive.

My concern continues to be that this program was created to deliver $900 million to support students. The future of those funds is unclear, now that the program has not been implemented, and it's a huge loss of opportunity for the youth across our country.

My first question is about a July 3, 2020 news article. The editor-in-chief of The Charity Report stated that WE Charity has connections to “18,000 schools in Canada, the U.S. and the UK” making it “Canada's largest youth” network; however, “WE does not have those kinds of relationships with other non-profit organizations and charities” necessary to find placements for youth.

How effective would a charitable or non-profit organization such as WE Charity have been in recruiting and finding placements for student volunteers?

3:55 p.m.

Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity

Scott Baker

As shared, we do have a national presence. We've worked with schools and the educational community across the country. In addition to that, we've been able to form partnerships with other not-for-profits because our program is actually very inclusive. The students in our program, in the WE schools and WE Day program, actually support other organizations. As a result of that, we have been able to form partnerships, over our history, with a number of not-for-profits.

That being said, we also recognized that to be able to place up to 40,000 students, we needed to build a strong community. We built a team that began having those conversations so that when the program launched, we would be able to place them in not-for-profits in a smooth way that would be a good experience for the volunteer and an impactful, positive experience for the not-for-profit.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you.

My next question is in regard to the $8 million that remains outstanding and is to be reimbursed. Could you tell us why this has not been paid? Why wasn't this paid along with the other portion of money you reimbursed? I'm sure there are people from ESDC watching, and maybe they need to hear this.

4 p.m.

Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity

Scott Baker

In the same way that the contribution agreement was a process that took time, the ending of the contract is a process that takes time. That is being governed primarily by the government, and we are following that process. I can assure you and all Canadians that those funds are in a bank institution. They will be returned as soon as possible as long as we have all the agreements in place so that there are no issues.

4 p.m.

Executive Director, WE Charity

Dalal Al-Waheidi

If I may add to that, we have waived, as an organization, all of our eligible expenditures, which is part of the contribution agreement, because we want to return all the money as soon as possible. We are taking the risk and we're taking the hit as an organization.

I just wanted to share that as a point of context.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

Michael, obviously ESDC isn't as quick to take money as the CRA is. We know that experience.

Go ahead, Mr. McLeod.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

I have one more question. This has been asked before, but I think it's important that everybody is clear on this situation.

I want you to confirm that the expenses incurred before the CA was signed were at WE's own risk. Can you tell us a little bit about why you would take that risk? It's a lot of money.

4 p.m.

Chief Operations Officer, WE Charity

Scott Baker

You are correct; we had an intentional conversation and understood that there would be some risk in the process.

The truth is that we believed deeply in the program and we wanted to play a role in a very difficult time for Canadians. We were excited about the challenge. We were very proud of the program that launched. We were very proud of the fact that 35,000 students registered within the first 10 days, as Ms. Al-Waheidi shared, 65% of whom were from visible minorities.

We were asked to do this. It's a Canadian charity, born and raised in Canada. We proudly took that step and moved forward with it.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Wayne Easter

We will have to end it there.

On behalf of the committee—

4 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.