WE Charity has registered to lobby the federal government and retroactively disclosed dozens of previous interactions between its employees and federal officials over the past several months.

Dalal Al-Waheidi, WE Charity’s executive director, told MPs on the House of Commons finance committee the organization had submitted the paperwork to enter the Registry of Lobbyists on Thursday, the same day as her testimony.

The disclosure comes months after WE Charity began discussions with federal officials on how to help young Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic. Those contacts culminated in a now-cancelled agreement to administer a $900-million student grant program that is now the subject of several Parliamentary investigations and has embroiled the charity and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government in controversy.

WE Charity filed a total of 65 communication reports with the registry, including 38 monthly communication reports in the past six months. The reports refer to any oral or other arranged communication with a public office holder, which can be a minister, political staffer or bureaucrat.

The reports mark the date of the communication, which public office holders were involved and the subject matter of the conversation.

Between March 25 and July 5, representatives of WE had 23 registered communications with Rachel Wernick, an assistant deputy minister at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Wernick is credited with recommending to cabinet that WE administer the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG).

WE Charity was chosen to administer the program via a foundation but backed out after a public outcry over the sole-sourced nature of the deal and after close ties between the families of Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the organization came to light.

WE’s communications include two previously-reported phone calls between co-founder Craig Kielburger and federal cabinet ministers— one with Small Business Minister Mary Ng on April 7 and the second with Youth Minister Bardish Chagger on April 17. Both conversations focused on a separate WE Charity proposal for a social entrepreneurship program.

WE has also registered to lobby 19 federal government ministries and departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, Finance Canada and ESDC.

WE has come under intense scrutiny from opposition MPs, who have questioned why the charity hadn’t registered to lobby despite repeated communications with federal officials. The Lobbying Act of Canada compels organizations to register their communications with government officials if 20 per cent of an employee’s work is spent preparing or actively preparing for lobbying government officials.

“For the past years, our engagement with the government was about one to three per cent of our overall budget and engagement,” Al-Waheidi told MPs. “We though it was minimal. If I thought that registration was required, we would have done it.”

WE Charity co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger, who appeared before the finance committee two weeks ago, told MPs the organization had not registered previously because it had “very limited engagement with the federal government seeking funds.”

WE Charity’s former director of government and stakeholder relations, Sofia Marquez, also appeared before the finance committee Thursday and provided additional details about her interactions with federal officials throughout the development and rollout of the CSSG.

Marquez said she participated in the April 17 phone call between Craig Kielburger and Chagger, in which they discussed a WE Charity proposal for a social entrepreneurship program that was eventually turned down by the government.

Marquez said she was also involved in developing the proposal for the program that would become the CSSG, which WE Charity submitted on April 21 to the offices of Chagger, Ng, as well as officials at ESDC and the finance department.

She also said she had a 30-minute phone call with Rick Theis, the director of policy in the PMO, where they discussed progress on the proposal.

Marquez said she didn’t register as a lobbyist, despite the fact that engaging with political staffers and bureaucrats about funding opportunities with government was part of her job.

“I understood that I was not the person responsible for the compliance of the act at WE Charity,” said Marquez.

Marquez said she didn’t keep a detailed track record of the hours she spent working on tasks related to the federal government.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is investigating Trudeau and Morneau for possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act. Both Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the cabinet decision to approve WE for the program.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Lib Dems accuse Tories of ‘stealing’ pupil premium policy

Michael Gove has reopened old wounds from the coalition government by claiming one of his proudest achievements is introducing the pupil premium – a policy the Liberal Democrats insist was their signature education reform, which has since been underfunded by…

Senior Pentagon leadership in quarantine after exposure to coronavirus by Coast Guard commander

White House director of communications Alyssa Farah reacts on ‘America’s Newsroom’ The Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other top U.S. military leaders, have gone into quarantine after attending meetings at the Pentagon with a Coast Guard commander who tested…

As QAnon grew, Facebook and Twitter missed years of warning signs about the conspiracy’s violent nature

When an article on Facebook detailed a QAnon conspiracy theory about a “16-Year Plan to Destroy America,” commenters demanded death for those supposedly involved, including former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Some Facebook…

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICTHamas ready to participate in inter-Palestinian meeting in Moscow — Lavrov

MOSCOW, August 21. /TASS/. The Hamas leadership informed Russia that it would be ready to participate in a meeting of the main Palestinian parties and movements when it is organized in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an…