Lobbyist Registration

Lobbying has never been a core function of WE Charity and any federal lobbying has involved only a small fraction of staff time. In fact, WE Charity had only one employee handling both “Government and Stakeholder Relations,” at all levels. As the title suggests, this role involved engaging both “stakeholders”, including individual donors and foundations, and “government”, including municipal, provincial and federal governments.

WE Charity last fiscal year received approximately 1% of its operating budget from the federal government. This miniscule share indicates that any engagement with the federal government was quite limited in comparison to the overall scope and scale of its domestic and international programs.

Nevertheless, in response to the government’s April 19th request to assist with delivering the Canada Student Service Grant, WE Charity moved quickly to design a program from scratch. The federal concept of lobbying is not limited to advocating for something from government, but may also include engaging in conversation when government asks for something from you.

Dozens of employees contributed to the initiative. Their diverse functions included graphic design of public materials, coding for website interface, eligibility criteria for youth, stakeholder engagement with other not-for-profit organizations, and delivery options about how to reach the most at-risk youth. Designing the program was a monumental effort during an incredibly compressed time period.

Some of these employees interacted with government via written or phone conversations: answering questions, revising scenarios at Ottawa’s request, and addressing new considerations raised by departmental officials.

It was – and is – an important moment in our nation’s COVID-19 response. To ensure that our role in that collaboration is transparently documented, and to remain accountable, we have voluntarily filed a federal lobbyist registration and lobbying reports. The registration is publicly available here .

Some things to keep in mind when reviewing our registration:

  • As the Lobbying Act provides, our registration was submitted by WE Charity’s most senior staff member, Executive Director Dalal Al-Waheidi. Naturally the registration covers the period from January 7, 2019, her first day as Executive Director.
  • For maximum transparency, our registration covers CSSG-related communications right up to formal signing of the partnership between WE Charity and the Government of Canada. As has been reported in the press, WE Charity started to work on the program with the oral agreement of Employment and Social Development Canada, but prior to a formally signed contribution agreement with the Government of Canada. Waiting for a signed agreement would have prevented the launch of the summer program. The Government of Canada signed the contribution agreement on June 23rd and launched the program on June 25th.
  • The lobbyist registration system is quite inflexible, forcing us to use its standard terminology to describe a program and a situation that were both exceptional and unprecedented, and limiting what we can say about individual meetings.
  • Contrary to misperception, the federal concept of lobbying is not limited to advocating for something. Merely responding to a Government of Canada invitation can be considered lobbying. (This is unlike the law in most provinces.) It seems counterintuitive, but answering the telephone when an assistant deputy minister calls may earn someone a place on the registry. For maximum transparency, our registration covers all work by WE Charity interacting with the government to assist in the CSSG, subsequent to ESDC’s contacting WE Charity to ask for help to implement this program.
  • Typical communications with the federal government included our IT department discussing user flow on a website, and WE Schools discussing how to reach at-risk youth in the context of program design.
  • Not all communications with public officials constitute lobbying or need to be registered. However, we have voluntarily disclosed more information than the law requires.

Our lobbyist registration must be kept in perspective. On April 19th the Government of Canada contacted WE Charity asking for assistance to launch a national youth service program. This resulted in an unprecedented volume of assistance to departmental officials, in a short time period, responsive to a unique government request. Those named on the registration are not professional lobbyists, just conscientious employees doing their job.