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Canadian News Aug 6, 2020 6:25 PM EST

EXCLUSIVE: PR firm that would've administered WE's Quebec contract has extensive Liberal ties

The PR firm that would've administered the government program on behalf of the WE Charity in Quebec had extensive connections to the Liberal Party.

EXCLUSIVE: PR firm that would've administered WE's Quebec contract has extensive Liberal ties
Nico Johnson Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

The public relations firm that would have administered the $900 million government program on behalf of the WE Charity in Quebec had extensive connections within Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party.

The WE Charity does not run programs in Quebec. As a result of this, they appointed National (a PR firm based out of Montreal) to administer the contract in the province.

The PR firm has a deeply complicated organizational structure. Having said that, numerous professionals who either work for the National or have worked for their subsidiaries have connections to the Liberal government.

Melanie Joly, for instance, who serves as Justin Trudeau's minister of economic development, was appointed as the managing partner of the Cohn & Wolfe in 2009. This firm is owned by the same company that owns the National firm.

Minister Joly has not disclosed these connections to the public.

As well as this, Ali A. Salam, who served as the National's Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, was employed as the Chief of Staff to "various ministers" within the Trudeau government, between 2016 and 2018.

Gordon Taylor Lee, who serves as the managing partner of National, also worked as a senior policy advisor to the deputy prime minister in Jean Chretien's Liberal government.  

The WE Charity awarded the Quebec-based firm this contract on May 29—just one week after they were awarded a non-competition contract so to manage the scholarship program.

The fact that a PR firm was chosen by the WE Charity to administer this contract raised some eyebrows. The Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Aaron Wudrick said that "the only entity that had the capacity to run this national program had to itself outsource it to another entity in the country's second largest province?"

When this PR firm was awarded this contract, they immediately began to contact MPs asking them for a list of community organizations within their riding, according to La Presse.

"The National firm was asking us to provide them with the list of organizations when the federal government already has all this information through the Canada summer jobs program," said one Conservative MP to La Presse.  

Speaking to The Post Millennial, the Conservative's Quebec Political Lieutenant said that they "are calling on the Liberal government to hand over all documents relating to this contract to the Finance Committee."

This undermines the prime minister's argument that the WE Charity were the only organization who could administer this federal contract.  

Speaking to The Post Millennial, National said that they were "mandated by WE Charity to support the organization for the implementation of the Canada Student Services Grant in Quebec and in Canadian francophone communities."

"The mandate started on May 29 and ended on July 3, 2020, when the program was transferred to the federal government. More specifically, our mandate was focused on communications, to support the outreach to not-for-profit and student organizations, French content development, media monitoring and social media content," they added.

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