Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Shefford.
Hearing the government House leader tell us just now that the ministers are responsible and accountable and that it is not up to their staff to answer for them was music to my ears. I completely agree with him. It would make no sense.
The problem is not that we disagree on the principles, it is that they do not walk the talk. The minister can tell us that he is responsible and that he is taking care of all this, but he and the government are not dealing with the situation.
We spent the better part of last summer on the WE scandal. We were making such good progress that we were starting to shed light on the matter. The only thing the government could come up with was to prorogue Parliament to prevent the committee from continuing its work. We were forced to stop, and when the work resumed, they still kept us waiting for the documents.
Last summer, I asked the Prime Minister and the former finance minister whether due diligence had been done before the government invested in WE Charity. They said that yes, it probably had. When I spoke to Mr. Shugart, the Clerk of the Privy Council, he confirmed that due diligence had been done. I asked him to send us the due diligence report, and he promised to do so. However, we never received it. That is an important document.
When someone invests money, regardless of the amount, they need to know who they are doing business with. If I have $2,000 to put into an RRSP, I am not going to give that money to the first peddler who comes along without knowing who he is and what he is going to do with my money. I make sure to give my money to a bank or trust, a responsible organization that is going to manage my money responsibly and ensure that I am not wasting it.
When the government, which manages my taxes, decides to invest my money, I expect it to be at least as diligent as I am, if not more. Normally, when someone is managing other people's money, they should be even more careful than when they are managing their own.
The WE Charity contract was not a $2,000 deal. It was a contract for $43 million, possibly more because of the potential for subcontracts. Clearly WE Charity was willing to subcontract the work. It gave National a contract and could have given contracts to its other organizations, such as ME to WE, and other shell corporations. We were shown quite an extensive organizational chart, actually. There was at least $43 million involved, plus more for student grants that could have totalled almost $1 billion. It could have been as much as $904 million.
It was the middle of the pandemic, so the government decided it did not have time to manage the program and would not bother with a tendering process, which is due diligence 101. It awarded the contract to the only organization it thought could provide the service: WE Charity.
The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and the Standing Committee on Finance heard from experts who said that a tender is essential but that if the situation is truly beyond one's control and a tender is not possible, even greater vigilance is needed. Based on what we know so far, the government, which should have been even more vigilant than usual, awarded the contract having done no due diligence whatsoever. It awarded a $43-million contract without checking into the recipient at all.
Then there was another emergency. We parliamentarians kept digging and realized that WE Charity, the entity the government had entrusted with $43 million of our money, was just a shell corporation. It was a new company. The Kielburger brothers are no fools. Their lawyer informed them that this was a big contract worth up to $1 billion and that they would be paid $43 million. The idea, then, was to put this into a separate company, because if the deal ever fell through, they did not want WE Charity to go belly up too. That was the plan in a nutshell, and I did not make it up. The Kielburger brothers told us the story themselves.
Their lawyers are the ones who recommended that they put $43 million into a new shell corporation, with no financial history, to manage nearly $1 billion, without due diligence or a tendering process.
What did we learn as we kept digging? We learned that the corporation in question was not even capable of providing services in French. Everyone likes to talk about how Canada is this great bilingual country, but that is pure fiction. Yet again, the government is all talk and no action on languages, as on everything else. The organization was not capable of providing services in French, so it was forced to subcontract services in Quebec to National.
What else did we learn as we dug deeper into this scandal? We found out that people from WE Charity had helped the government design this program. The people who wanted to get paid for deciding where our money should go were telling the government what to put in the contract that they would then awarded. On top of that, they were told to put it in a shell corporation so that they would not lose anything if the project were to fail. Unbelievable.
Not only were they the ones designing the program, but what else did we learn? The people who were telling the government how to design the program were not even registered as lobbyists. No one from WE Charity was registered as a lobbyist. However certain individuals were working with public servants every day to design a program that would get them a $43-million contract. That is hardly small potatoes
The icing on the cake is that, by asking questions, we learned that the Prime Minister and the finance minister at the time were in a conflict of interest when they issued that contract. The worst part is that they were aware of it. They knew that they should not get involved, but they did so anyway.
There was an initial cabinet meeting, as the Prime Minister testified last summer. He saw the subject on the agenda and said that he was not sure he could get involved because he was in a conflict of interest. He knew the Kielburgers, and his family, namely his mother, brother and wife, had received contracts worth approximately half a million dollars from them. In order to reassure the Prime Minister, the meeting was postponed for two weeks.
The Prime Minister then had two weeks to think. Nevertheless, he and the then finance minister ended up voting on a contract in which they had a conflict of interest, a contract that was problematic for all the reasons I just outlined.
They do not want to answer our questions. They prorogue Parliament when they think we are asking too many questions. We therefore put our questions to the Kielburger brothers, who confirmed a few things. One of the brothers—I believe it was Marc Kielburger—confirmed that he had sent a message through LinkedIn to several employees in the department, thanking them for working with him to shape the program. The government, meanwhile, tells us that everything is fine, that it prepared the program itself, without any help from WE Charity.
WE says that it was thanking public servants for preparing it. We want to get to the bottom of this. If the ministers do not want to give us an answer, we will ask the employees involved, the ones the Kielburger brothers referred to. We want to ask them what really went on, but we are being told that the ministers have to take responsibility.
I agree with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I would love to see the ministers take responsibility. That is music to my ears. I invite them to testify before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and to answer for their staff. However, they must actually give an answer. They cannot do what they have been doing over the past few months, such as sending 5,000 pages of redacted documents, including 349 pages that, according to the law clerk, were redacted in a way that did not comply with the committee's instructions.
I hope they will not prorogue Parliament or call an election to prevent us from continuing our work. They must stop beating around the bush. They must take responsibility. Unfortunately, we have lost faith in them. At this point, we are determined to get to the bottom of this matter. It is taxpayers' money, and it is not peanuts. We are talking about $43 million to manage almost $1 billion. We want to hear from those responsible for this program. I want to see the due diligence report that we have been promised since August.