I wanted to put that out there because I didn't want to leave any misconceptions for other members of the 338 of us who have the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons that anything is nonetheless not....
Thank you, Mr. Poilievre, for your hard work, your entrepreneurship and so forth and your motion today with regard to the amount of time for testimony this week by the Prime Minister of Canada and his chief of staff. In your comments you started by stating a number of things, and I think we need to chat about them. We need to clarify and make sure where we're at this evening, all of us gathered together here, me in the beautiful riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, and all of us spread out coast to coast to coast in this beautiful country we live in.
First off, we heard yesterday four hours of testimony from the Kielburger brothers, and I was paying attention very closely, and I think, probably for the last hour and a half, there was much repetition in the questioning by many of our members, especially on the opposition side. I didn't see and learn much new in the last hour and a half.
There were many intriguing questions that I thought brought many things to light. I think we need to touch upon those issues in this time we have allotted this evening, because it's very important that we don't do that again. We had four hours of testimony where opposition members, where government members, asked tough questions, I would say, and received a lot of information.
We know, for example, that Mr. Poilievre just stated that $500 million was going to be transferred from the government to WE. No, $500 million was going to go to hardworking student volunteers across our country. Up to 100,000 kids would have received monies for volunteering to do great deeds across this country. The WE organization, as was indicated yesterday, quite clearly in the contribution agreement that I have here with me and that I have read closely, was only going to be reimbursed for the eligible expenditures that it would have incurred. We need to understand that, because first we had an indication it was $900 million or $1 billion. We had a lot of words from opposition members that were factually inaccurate, and then you had a lot of words tonight by Mr. Poilievre when he spoke about his motion about $500 million and this shell company and that shell company, and I'm just scratching my head because those, to me, are very inflammatory comments, statements that are incorrect.
The WE organization had signed a contribution agreement. They have connections with 18,000 schools across North America, an organization that was looked upon by our public servants, who have done a phenomenal job in the last four months.... We need to step back and think about where we are in a point of time of Canada's history and the history of the world with the COVID-19 pandemic. This was one measure amongst many, including the Canada emergency response benefit, CEWS, to help students.
That's what we were doing; we were helping students, and we continue to help students, Chair, through the Canada student grants to help them with graduating, part of the $9 billion package, and this was one portion of it.
There was one comment made during the testimony about what we described as lapsed funding, and I make this analogy of lapsed funding.... You know in the private sector, I used to go to what were called “investor days”, when a company would come in.... I covered sectors, the mid-stream sectors, and if I can speak to Mr. Cooper's world in Alberta, the downstream ones. I covered all of the energy companies, including pipelines, who present on an investor day and give us a set of numbers and forecasts, much like a budget. Then they would come back and produce quarterly filings, which I would follow and look at from a bond perspective as a bond analyst, as someone who worked in the financial markets. I really very much enjoyed myself, learned it and brought those skill sets here to where I am now.
It's similar to this contribution agreement where we've allotted $500 million that would then go to up to 100,000 students across Canada, youth across Canada, for volunteering. It was in the Kielburgers' testimony yesterday, in which they indicated that this was the allotment and how much was going to be spent, which might have been up to that amount or might have been less. The opposition has consistently mischaracterized this contribution agreement as being bigger than it really was. It was for a maximum of $543 million. The difference was just allocated and not committed, which is, of course, common practice within government.
I would anticipate and expect that a seasoned member of Parliament who has sat in cabinet, a member of Parliament whom I would actually like to quote because it applies to the issue at hand in terms of the contribution agreement.... I quote from my learned friend because I consider myself friends with all members of all parties and have relationships with all members of all parties, and we chat and we're here to represent our constituents and do the good work that Canadians expect us to do. That's why they're sent there and that's why they give us that privilege.
I would like to quote the member as follows:Thank you very much for your question.
I think we need to put the issue of lapsed funding into its proper context. It is the regular practice of governments to spend underneath the budget that Parliament authorizes for them, and there's a good 800-year-old reason for that, which is that departments are not meant to spend what Parliament has not approved, and it's unwise to spend right up to the limit for fear of going over it. It is good, prudent financial management to come in under budget and to leave a buffer between that which you have approved and that which we spend.
That was my learned friend Mr. Poilievre, whom I respect greatly. I think we really need to clarify the details in the contribution agreement in terms of where we are. The total value of the Canada student service grant was $912 million when the program was announced by the Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, on April 27. A comprehensive table lays that out and all federal emergency spending estimates that it's still assigned that number to the CSSG program on July 28.
If we look at the details, $543 million was the federal funding allocated to the CCSG accord contribution agreement signed by WE Charity and my good friend Minister Bardish Chagger. That is the amount we were dealing with. No more, no less, and the expenses were done on a graduated scale. The program would have been adopted, would be run, and as you increase the number of youth signed up to participate in the programming and to benefit from the experience— and let's not forget the organizations that would have been benefiting....
We know that to date the majority of the 30,000 plus students who had indicated they were interested in taking part in this program and working in their communities came from indigenous, racialized communities across Canada.
Mr. Chair, I grew up in northern British Columbia, in Prince Rupert, B.C., and I have always been a very big advocate, proponent, of nation-to-nation building and relationships with our indigenous communities. So it was great to hear that an overwhelming majority of youth who had signed up for the Canada student service grant were from that nation, that community. To see this CCSG being derailed, this program being derailed, due to political purposes, a program that I thought had much value, was honestly very disappointing.
If we look at the details, up to the $500 million was the total federal maximum funding allotted for students who would be eligible to receive up to $5,000 paid in increments of $1,000 for every 100 hours volunteered. The maximum funding for eligible expenses, or expenditures if I can use that detail, would be $43.53 million for the WE organization that was selected and signed a contribution agreement with our wonderful public servants to fulfill this task.
Now, do I believe that they could have fulfilled this task? Yes, absolutely. Do I believe that there is value in a program? Yes, absolutely.
When you think of the expenses, it was broken down. In the contribution agreement, the details are there. There was $19.—