House of Commons Hansard #269 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organizations.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak today.

This attestation has affected people across every riding in Canada. In my riding, people who have not been able to sign the attestation have called me. Some people are working with addicted young people. I had a person at a vet clinic who said that they do not agree with this, that they do not agree they are being forced to sign this, and that they will not be able to participate in the program. We have heard from municipal governments that are saying they do not agree the federal government should be dictating what they should believe.

The most interesting example of this was a call from someone who is part of an umbrella organization that helps three organizations fill out applications for the Canada summer jobs program. Last year they had 80 jobs across western Canada: the three prairie provinces, B.C., Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. They said they are unable to sign the attestation.

These are summer jobs that went into boys and girls camps, rural camps, urban camps, and aboriginal communities where young people would spend time working in these communities for the summer. Those 80 jobs are completely lost. They said that this year they would get zero jobs.

Could my colleague comment on how she sees that the Liberals are attacking Canadians' rights, when people say they cannot sign that attestation?

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, of course I cannot speak for the government and say why it accepts or rejects any applications.

What I can say, however, is that we, as Canadians, were all in agreement 35 years ago that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a foundational document that we all embrace. I mentioned in my speech that I used to work with organizations that support young addicts, among others, as the member said. If the nature of the job involved working with these young addicts, the job used to be eligible. It is unfortunate that they have been excluded because of this utterly vague criterion.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, like my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, I will be opposing this Conservative motion, because, by implication, it calls into question the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to some degree.

As we have heard repeatedly in the House, we have been subject to the charter for 35 years, since 1982. There was a general consensus to welcome and respect the charter.

The Liberals' management of the Canada summer jobs program has been quite confusing, which has caused many groups, especially religious groups, to feel excluded and think they could not submit a Canada summer jobs application. This has led to some unfortunate outcomes. For example, some groups will not get any funding from the program because they did not know for sure whether they were eligible to submit an application.

In the wake of this controversy all our offices received many calls. I think that the Liberals are still getting calls because this is still so confusing. Religious groups, who say that their work helps the community and that young people join them in helping the least fortunate in the community, are asking whether they have the right to submit an application. We had to explain that the nature of their activities did not go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that they could indeed submit their application.

It bears repeating that the NDP finds it unacceptable to provide funding, taxpayer money, to groups whose work is based on fighting against women's rights, against access to abortion, and against defending the rights of the LBGTQ2 community.

As we all have been saying for years, the question of women's rights is absolutely not up for debate. As I said earlier, even the Supreme Court has ruled that restricting the right to abortion is unconstitutional. Based on that, I think that clarifications were made and continue to be made.

Any organization that wants to can apply to give young people a rewarding experience to earn money for school, in what may be their first job or simply some summer work. I think we can continue to offer these jobs and that the government should provide funding, so that young people can work and apply the skills they learned in school

In my riding of Salaberry—Suroît, 151 jobs were funded for young people last summer. The wide range of jobs were very much appreciated. The jobs included working in museum archives, being day camp counsellors, and working in youth centres. Also receiving funding were jobs at recreational organizations, such as the Régates de Valleyfield, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

There are so many interesting jobs for young people. However, I must say that the Liberals and the Conservatives are playing politics here. It is appalling that we have gotten to this point. The Liberals showed in their budget that they are using the Canada summer jobs program as a marketing tool. Unbelievable. For example, last year, after I told organizations that they were approved for jobs, I was told that I would have to reduce the number of weeks each young person could work so that more young people could have jobs.

I was told to give only six weeks of employment to some young people in order to have more jobs for more youth. That made no sense. A six-week summer job does not cover a lot of post-secondary expenses. What will young people do for the rest of the summer? What about the organizations that hire a young person for just six weeks? What will they do for the remaining eight weeks of the summer? They will have to close their doors or cut their services. That is not what they want. Young people need to work for 14 or 16 weeks or they will not have enough money to pay for their rent, food, and what they need for school. Once again, the Liberals are all talk, and they are going to say that they have an excellent record and that they created thousands of summer jobs. In reality, it is a blow to young people if they are unable find jobs that pay enough or last long enough to allow them to fully dedicate themselves to their studies the rest of the year.

The budget talks about Canada summer jobs, but there was nothing about the rest of the youth employment strategy. I wish the Conservatives had mentioned that in their opposition motion today. Will cuts be made to the skills link program? One has to wonder. Will cuts be made to the career focus program? Is there any money for those programs in the budget? No money was announced for those programs in the budget on Tuesday. The Liberals favour the Canada summer jobs program because MPs are the ones who do the work of deciding who gets the jobs, so the Liberals do not have to do it. They do not have to do all the work of administering the program because members of the House are doing it.

There is nothing in the budget about precarious employment. A report was tabled on that subject, but there is very little about it the budget the finance minister announced on Tuesday.

We would also have preferred to talk about all of the budget's shortcomings. I will mention a few others. The Liberals talk about doubling the budget as though $400 million was never allocated in the past, but the Conservatives allocated that same amount for this program in 2010-11, when they were responsible for the budget.

The budget does nothing to make the funding for the Canada summer jobs, career focus, or skills link programs permanent, even though they are used by thousands of Canadians. For example, an organization in my riding, Une affaire de famille, received a significant amount of funding, about $150,000, in 2017 to give young people facing barriers to employment access to services that would help them to return to the labour market. This program helped 31 young people. The organization wanted to continue with this project, but it recently received a letter from the government saying that it was unable to renew the project because of budgetary constraints.

What will happen to young people in extremely disadvantaged regions, such as Salaberry—Suroît or the Upper St. Lawrence? These young people are struggling. They may have addictions, they may have dropped out of school, or they may have mental health problems. Organizations such as the one I mentioned are trying to help them to get jobs, give them valuable and relevant tools, build their self-confidence, and direct and guide them. However, now the government is taking all that money away from these organizations, leaving them with no alternative. It does not make any sense.

Last year, in addition to failing to renew this program, the Liberals added Young Canada Works to the youth employment strategy, even though that program falls under the jurisdiction of another department, Canadian Heritage. This year, there has been no mention of the program, not even under official languages. However, many francophone organizations use the Young Canada Works program because it is the only one that has a language criterion and that enables young Acadians, Franco-Saskatchewanians, and Franco-Yukoners to more easily access jobs where they can work in their mother tongue.

There is also the problem of Phoenix. We should also be talking about that since we know that over 200,000 public servants are affected. Generally speaking, people who work irregular schedules are having the most problems, for example, those doing paid internships, those on parental leave, and summer students. They are the ones who are suffering the most. They do not have access to the parliamentary network.

We should have been talking about these types of projects that affect whether young people can or cannot get good and lasting jobs that will help improve their lives. That was not addressed in the budget.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I know the member was here in the last Parliament, so she would see the impact of the additional funding in the program. Since we came to government, we have doubled the number of students who receive support. There were $330 million in the program, and we have infused another $350 million in that program. I am sure the member has seen it in her riding.

The member ran on a platform that included an investment of $25 million between 2017 and 2019. Does she see that investment we have made has a greater impact than the $25 million the NDP had promised?

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, it makes me laugh to see how partisan the Liberals can be.

Yes, they doubled the amount and that is significant. However, as I said in my speech, they are asking us to give fewer weeks to every young person who gets a job. It is absurd. They are positioning themselves to boost their numbers so that they can brag at the expense of our young people, who will get jobs for shorter periods of time and will not gain as many skills as they would in 12, 14, or 16 weeks.

Let us not forget that it is an investment for three months during the summer. What is the government doing for young people who are graduating from university and college and who need a full-time job for the entire year? Automation is causing problems. Over the next 20 years, 40% of jobs will be automated. That will create job insecurity for young people. What are the Liberals doing about that? I would remind hon. members that the Minister of Finance said that we have to get used to it. What a fine response for helping our young people.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for the clarity of her comments on the federal program, which spreads the money it provides so thinly that it puts our young people in a precarious situation.

My question for my colleague concerns the motion before us. I would basically like to know whether we live in a state where there is a separation between rights and the government.

Does she not find that the government is imposing its ideology on people whose beliefs differ from those of the Liberals? Is the Liberal government going down a slippery slope by imposing its ideology on all Canadians when freedom of conscience is a fundamental principle of Canadian society?

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I would say that the Liberals were very vague with respect to the criteria for applying to the Canada summer jobs program.

Consequently, many organizations believed that they would be excluded, which was not and should not be the case. All we want is for those organizations that apply to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, above all, to respect women's rights. I believe that everyone agrees with that, and I hope that my Conservative colleague agrees that women's rights should be respected in all the activities conducted by every organization that receives public money through the Canada summer jobs program.

That said, I think that the Conservatives could have used their opposition day to talk about the programs and services not currently available to young people. I met with representatives from Generation Squeeze Canada yesterday. According to this organization, young people aged 25 to 34 in 2018 earn on average $6,000 less than their counterparts did in 1976, 40 years ago. I think there is a problem. The government claims to want to give young people the tools and opportunities they need to thrive, but this is not what is being done in 2018, with a budget that barely addresses job insecurity and does nothing to ensure that young people are not graduating with $25,000 to $30,000 in debt because they pay interest. The government is making money from these students.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, I know the people from our region appreciate the opportunity for their member of Parliament to stand today. I would like to start by saying it is an honour to split my time with the other member for Barrie—Innisfil, some would say the better member for Barrie, or at least better looking.

Oftentimes when we get the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, it is on motions and items where we see very positive changes happening. Unfortunately, today is not one of those moments. I think I can speak for every member in the House when I say that every summer I look forward to seeing the different organizations applying for Canada summer jobs money. They are applying to put students into the workplace to give them experience and ensure they are ready either for the studies they are going back to or eventually the job market.

Unfortunately, this year we have had a change introduced by the Liberal government. The Prime Minister and his team have decided that in order to qualify for funding, organizations would need to sign a new attestation. Focusing on the meat of the attestation, it states:

Both the job* and my organization's core mandate* respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression;....

When we look at this on the surface, it is something perhaps many people would immediately jump behind. When we look deeper into this and the effect the attestation and verbiage put forward by the government is having on society, we can see major issues. We have seen organizations across the country come forward and state that they have issues getting these summer students, who will be providing services to Canadians, to sign the attestation. They cannot, in fact, sign this attestation based on the one of the items outlined in the attestation, either freedom of religion or freedom of speech.

The Toronto City Mission, in the riding of Scarborough—Agincourt, helps literally thousands of people. It helps widows, kids in government housing, those who do not have a place to live, the homeless, those with disabilities and mental health issues, those who are seeking employment, food, and shelter. Dave Addison, of the Toronto City Mission, says the following about the attestation:

The mission is already operating at a deficit, having decided last year to offer the camps [for children] for free because many of the families they serve can’t afford to pay any fee [at all]....

We love the widow, the orphan, the refugee, [and] the poor. We ask the government to remove the attestation and allow us to do our loving work.

That is the crux of the issue we have in front of us today. There are thousands upon thousands of organizations across this country that just want to love and help Canadians who are in need. In my own riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro—Medonte, the Hope City Church in downtown Barrie helps those who are trying to get out of prostitution rings or out of human trafficking. It offers support services to help people get their lives on track, to help those dealing with mental health issues and addictions, yet this year it will not be able to provide those services because it is unable to sign this attestation.

The government would have Canadians believe that this is somehow about some sort of side issue that it would like to bring up. The reality is that this attestation, no matter what the intent was by the government, is about the Canadians it affects. It is about the widow that the Toronto City Mission helps. It is about the children in government housing who would not have a summer camp to go to without the Toronto City Mission. This attestation and its effects, this entire debate, is about seniors who do not have access to health care, yet there are organizations in each of our communities across the country that step up and provide these services.

This attestation and this entire issue, this debate today, are about Canadians who are marginalized who no longer will have the services that they had last year because the government decided to introduce this attestation. This entire debate is about supporting those in our community who need help, and it does not matter where in the country they come from. It does not matter whether someone is a Liberal MP in Atlantic Canada, a Conservative MP from Ontario, or a New Democrat from B.C. These issues are affecting us all the same.

We are seeing organizations in our communities pulling back from the entire process for summer students, which means they are pulling back from the services that they are providing Canadians or trying to find ways to come up with the funding. It is terrible. I never thought that I would see the day when we would have a government double the amount of funds going to this program, which is literally training young people to help those in need and actually helping those who are in need, and at the same time as doubling the funding it is cutting the services to those who need it most. It is incredibly shameful.

It is not about one religion or one faith. This is affecting everybody. We saw in the National Post an article where there was an imam from the Muslim community in Mississauga speaking about this issue. We saw leaders of the Sikh community stepping up on this issue. We saw members of Catholic and Christian communities stepping up, of the Coptic Christians, and of many different faiths across our society because it affects everybody equally. It affects a Muslim kid's help phone line. It affects churches who are on the streets doing mission work. It affects Project Ramadan, which provides food and support to many different communities. Just because the organization is of the Muslim faith and has a Muslim faith basis, it does not just help Muslims. It helps everybody, anybody who is in need in that community.

This attestation is getting in the way of these organizations being able to provide those front-line services that government fails to provide. It is getting in the way of people being able to access shelters. It is getting in the way of our young people being taught the lessons and being given the experience and learning the empathy to deal with those in our society who just do not have what we have, who do not have the same access to the things that we in the House have. To say that we are going to marginalize, as a House, that the government is somehow going to marginalize not just the groups that provide these services, not just the students who work with the groups that provide these services, but those people who are in need and who are accessing these services day in and day out, is incredibly disgusting to me.

How could this be where the government has ended up? Maybe it was not the intent. Maybe the intent of this action was not to have those people hurt. Maybe the intent of this action was to try to do something good, but that is not what we are seeing. At first, the minister said that this is great and not to worry. Just a few weeks later, the Liberals had to walk out and say that, actually, the wording is not what the wording means and this is actually what they mean now, but they are not going to change the wording. Then we have organizations across the country saying that they cannot apply even under this changed wording because the verbiage is still the exact same as it was before. The minister, the Prime Minister, and the government have failed to listen and they failed to consult and they failed to learn what the issues were with this attestation that they put forward, which is infringing on the faith and religious beliefs of Canadians.

I did not come to the House and I did not run for election to cut off services to those who are most in need in our community. I can say, as somebody who has grown up in government housing, who has accessed food banks, who has dealt with many of the issues that we are seeing these organizations that are being cut off deal with, that these are life and death matters in many situations. What we need to do today, as a House, is to call on the government to back away on the attestation and stand up for Canadians who have been marginalized.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, over the years I have found the summer student program to be of great value to communities throughout the riding of Winnipeg North, the area I represent.

I can appreciate the Conservatives spreading information that is not fully accurate. However, part of the concern I have as a representative wanting to serve the constituents of Winnipeg North is that if there are areas of concern, such as what the member has raised, I would suggest to those groups that when they are putting in their applications, that they have no hesitation in coming in and meeting with me. I wonder if my colleague from across the way would be inclined to do the same thing for individual groups that wanted student applications.

Was the member encouraging them through the application process so that in fact some of those grants would have been issued?

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Madam Speaker, what we have here is the member saying that he is going to navigate groups through an application process with the Government of Canada. That may be what the government is doing here. It is trying to force groups and individuals to go down the road of its beliefs. It is trying to get everybody into this one group. The reality is that Canada is a diverse country with many different faiths, religions, and points of view. When I work with the organizations in my community and across this country, we ask them; we do not tell them. The government needs to step back, consult with Canadians, and consult with the organizations that are providing services to people who are going through such severe situations.

I would call on the government again to stop telling Canadians and start working with them.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I think we can all agree that the government's criteria for the summer jobs program were vague. A number of organizations ended up feeling excluded.

Does my colleague agree that all organizations must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which includes women's rights and LGBTQ rights, and that these rights are non-negotiable? The government should have been more clear right from the outset.

Furthermore, instead of simply talking about jobs that last three months, we should also be making an effort to ensure that young people have access to stable, high-quality, full-time jobs.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly all of the issues we have been talking about surrounding this attestation are important. In my own riding, the government recommended that the Gilbert Centre, which works with individuals in the LGBTQ2 community, receive only half of the funding it had applied for. Our office ensured that all of the funding that was applied for by the Gilbert Centre was given to it.

At the same time, the work that is done by different organizations in the community to help those who are struggling to find a home, to help those who are struggling who need shelter, to help those who do not have food, and to help those who do not have access to summer camps are just as important. These are all incredibly important issues.

The reality here, and what I believe, is that we live in a country where we do not leave anybody behind. However, what this attestation is doing is that it is leaving literally tens of thousands of Canadians behind by cutting the funding to organizations that will help those who are marginalized in our communities.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief, but it is my first opportunity to get in on this debate, although I was attempting to do so before.

I find two mistakes that have been made here, and one compounds the other. The first mistake was when the summer grants program allowed students to be hired by NGOs who were specifically focused on interfering with women's legal rights to access safe and legal abortions. This is a right that I support and that the Green Party supports. The response, however, was another mistake. I think the minister overreached. This attestation box has created great concern among people in my community, for example, the Hope Bay Bible Camp on Pender Island, or the Friendship Community Church, which has two good programs, including one that does soccer camps at Tsawout First Nation.

I will be voting for the opposition motion because I believe the attestation box was a mistake, but not because for one second I will surrender on a woman's right to equal choice and equal rights.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question there, but I would like to respond to my hon. colleague. We certainly appreciate the member's support.

We will continue to ensure, as a party, that all Canadians are respected and represented. That is what we are asking the government to do here today. We are asking it to allow all of us to be a part of this incredible mosaic we call Canada.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my friend from Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte not only for sharing his time with me today but for his passionate conviction on this issue of the attestation. It is an issue we have seen, over the course of the last couple of months, that has really galvanized Canadians.

I will start off with a question, and I am not sure I will get the answer I think I should get. If government members were asked to sign something they did not believe in to receive government funding, would they? That is precisely what they are asking Canadian organizations, Canadian faith-based organizations, Canadian community organizations that do tremendous work across this country, as my friend from Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte talked about, to do. The government is asking them to sign something they do not fundamentally agree with, and they should not have to, because we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that defends everyone's right to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of conviction, and freedom of religion. Everyone across this country has these rights.

I am not sure how this even came up, whether it was the minister herself who imposed this, whether this was a decision of cabinet, or whether this was a decision of the Prime Minister's backroom operatives, including Gerald Butts. This sounds very similar to the type of stuff that goes on in Ontario and did go on under Gerry Butts's watch. It is mind-boggling to me that we are even at this point.

When the government introduced this in December, just before Christmas, it created a lot of angst within the communities that apply for funding under the Canada summer jobs program. There was a lot of confusion about the attestation. There was a lot of confusion about what it meant. If someone did not sign the attestation, what would that mean for Canada summer jobs funding?

That confusion led to a lot of doubt, and it caused the government to step back and try to clarify the meaning of the attestation. That created more confusion. Within this envelope I have, there are rejected applications from those organizations that refused to sign the attestation or decided that they were going to put in a supplementary attestation and not check the boxes. Their applications were rejected by Service Canada, because they did not follow the criteria the government set out for them.

What does that mean to those organizations that received Canada summer jobs funding in the past and applied that funding toward hiring students and toward helping community organizations and community groups? They are not going to get that funding, and they are not going to be able to provide valuable work experience for those young people, many of whom are in university.

What is funny about this is that the Liberal government says that it wants to help young people gain experience and gain jobs, yet it has imposed this ideological values test that has a direct impact on those young people, many, as I said, who are university, who are looking for summer employment. It is a big problem. What is the impact of those students not working within those organizations? Many of them will not be able to do things within the community that these organizations are able to do.

It is not just faith-based organizations that are having a problem with this. Two weeks ago, just before the application deadline, I was on the phone with Dan Dufour. Dan owns Eggsmart, in Alcona, which is in the riding of Barrie--Innisfil. Last year he hired four Canada summer jobs students. He does not have any faith-based problems with this. He has a fundamental individual rights problem with this. Dan asked me why he should sign this attestation to qualify for a government program he received in the past. That is a fair question.

What is the impact for Dan and his business? He is not going to be able to hire those four students, and the service levels within his restaurant could potentially drop. I know he is already struggling because of the high tax burden and the high regulatory burden from having a business in the province of Ontario and because of the taxes federally. I told Dan to send in the application but to include a note. I am sure his application will have been rejected because of the others that have been.

This is a real problem. I know that the government is trying to twist this. I sat through most of the debate this morning and listened to the Liberals trying to twist it and say that it is not the way it is. Clearly, there was a lot of confusion when this program first came out.

This is one of the things I found out after the election in 2015, when I first started dealing with the Canada summer jobs program. We have a tremendous ability to allocate funding for the Canada summer jobs program and to put it in areas where we think it will be best utilized, not just to hire students but to support the types of community programs that exist. One of those is municipalities. Municipalities generally apply for a large mount of funding. We are hearing stories from across the country that municipalities, which in some cases hire 100 or 120 students, are not going to be applying to the summer jobs program, because they do not feel, as municipalities, that they need to subscribe to a government values test to get government funding for a summer student jobs program.

It is a very slippery slope we are heading down when the government tries to impose its own ideological purity test on these types of programs. What is next? Where does this go next? Does it go toward old age security payments for seniors? I think these are fair questions. To be eligible, am I, as an individual, going to have to sign an attestation that says that I agree with the government's ideology? If I want to apply for employment insurance, does it mean I have to sign an attestation that says I agree with the government's ideology to qualify for insurance? It should never get to that point. It should never have gotten to this point, where the government is imposing a purity test on Canadian organizations that do tremendous work across the country.

We heard in the budget this week that there will be a lot of money flying out these doors. A lot of money will be going to organizations the government will be funding. For example, the government announced $150 million for a journalistic fund. Was it $50 million or $150 million? I do not have the number quite in my head. Is it going to impose the same purity test on those organizations to apply for this funding? There is $500 million going to a China infrastructure bank. Is the government going to impose its purity test on organizations that apply for that funding? I think not. This is a very slippery slope we are heading down.

We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects the right of individuals to believe and think what they want. For the government to impose this test strikes at the very core of what this place represents. This place represents generations of Canadians who have fought for us to have the right to believe in what we believe in, to think what we want to think, and to say what we want to say, within some limits. Those fights have happened, and people have died for that.

For the government to impose this on these organizations and individuals, who have a tremendous impact across the country in the work they do, which many will now not be able to do because they will not qualify because they do not want to sign the attestation, is a real shame.

It is not just a shame for those communities and those people it is going to help. It is a shame for our democracy that this government would impose an ideological purity test on Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to both members on this issue in the last few minutes. I recognize that there is a lot going on at the provincial political level in their region of the country, so maybe they have been a little distracted and have not been able to fully understand what we are talking about here. We are not talking about beliefs. What we are talking about is an organization's willingness to support human rights, rights that have been developed and brought forward in this place, rights that have been talked about with Canadians across the country, rights that have been tested in the Supreme Court, with precedents set.

The member talked about a person named Dan who owns a restaurant in his riding. Rather than continue to confuse Dan, why is he not working with him to make sure that Dan can continue to get support? By politicizing this issue, as the Conservatives are doing, the member is directly impacting the ability of a restaurant operator in his riding to get money from this. Why will he not support his own constituents to make sure that they can get the money they need for these important programs?

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, how dare the hon. member accuse me of not working with my constituent. In fact, I actually called Dan, because I noticed that he had not applied at this point. I asked everyone who applied to send my office the application. The member can sit there in Kingston and the Islands and deal with his constituents, and I will deal with mine.

The member talked about beliefs. I want to quote the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, who is a member of the government. When discussing the government's attestation for Canada summer jobs, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame said, "To me, that's a lack of respect. If I was to say to someone, 'Look, don't worry about it, just tick the box or whatever' — some people have a core fundamental belief that they don't believe in this.” He talked about beliefs.

He is not alone in thinking that. Will the government finally listen to the concerns of Canadians and remove this inappropriate test from the Canada summer jobs application? That is a member from the Liberal side who said that. When the hon. member speaks of beliefs, he needs to listen to his own side as well.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to be able to intervene on this matter again. It is an important thing that MPs work with their constituents to help them through this process. I do not think it is politicized by political parties. I will, on the appropriate occasion, take that up with Conservatives for politicizing issues if they do not need to.

This really is coming from the grassroots. There are a lot of really good projects run by local church and religious groups in my riding. Every year they have qualified for summer grant funding. Every year they have people in the community doing good work. They have never had a political objective with those summer grants programs.

There was that one bad example I mentioned earlier of the wrong group that should never have gotten funding. The ministers should use their discretion and communicate it through their departments that political groups who harass women seeking their legal right to abortion should never receive funding. They should not have needed to go to a one-size-fits-all checkbox.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would agree with me that some groups should not have received funding in the last round.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, one of the abilities we as members have is to disseminate money to certain organizations and certain groups. In that case, a lot of discretion is left to the member of Parliament. The business owner in Alcona I cited does not have any core beliefs in terms of religion or faith or anything else. He just does not believe that he is required to sign this attestation.

In dealing with constituents and walking them through this, I want to make sure as a member of Parliament that I am putting them in the best position I can, but I am not going to ask them to sign something they do not fundamentally believe they should sign. As I said at the outset, and I gave this example, I do not believe there is anyone in the government who, if I told them to sign something they do not believe in, would actually sign it for the sake of government funding. It just does not make sense.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate, I will let the members who are standing up know that I will do my best to make sure they all get a chance to participate in the questions and comments period. Resuming debate.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, before I begin I wish to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.

I am pleased to provide some background and some perspective on a Government of Canada program that has brought support to, and transformed, the outlook of young people in Canada for decades. I am referring to the Canada summer jobs program.

I have had the privilege as an MP of meeting many employers and many students of the CSJ program over the years. I have seen just how much difference it makes in the community, whether I was visiting students who were helping disabled people learn how to sail at Jericho Beach, or whether it was the many youth camps where young people go out into the wilderness of Pacific Spirit Regional Park to learn about ecology, or whether it is the legal clinics where young people who are entering into their education to become lawyers are hired to provide free services to people who cannot afford to pay for legal services, or whether it is those young students who are teaching swimming lessons to the children of families in Vancouver Quadra. There have been many ways that I have seen the benefits for the community.

This is a program that also has specific objectives for meeting the current and future needs of the labour market, and for improving the situation of the youth as they prepare to enter the labour market. This is why national priorities for the Canada summer jobs program, CSJ, were established in the first place.

Here is an outline of some of those priorities that our government has established. We are giving priority to employers who hire youth from under-represented groups, including new immigrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and visible minorities. It is true that all young people face challenges, but some young people face more challenges than others. They could benefit hugely from an opportunity to have a summer job.

For example, indigenous youth are less likely to complete high school than non-indigenous youth. We all know that abandoning high school will have a significant impact on a person's future career prospects. It is important to be able to access a summer job.

Most often youth who are immigrants have no work experience in Canada, and have no network to rely on. As well, they do not necessarily have the basic skills in one of our official languages, and have challenges in getting their foreign credentials and credits recognized.

These are all key elements of a successful integration into the Canadian market and a Canada summer job. The income is important to the students, and so is the work experience, the mentoring they receive, and the chance to improve their skills in the workplace. That is why youth from underrepresented groups are part of our national priorities in the context of the CSJ program.

A second priority is favouring small businesses that play such an important role in creating jobs in Canada. Having come from a small business and then a medium business background, I am very mindful of how difficult it is for small business people. Small business people, as we know, are one of the key drivers of the Canadian economy, accounting for some 97.9% of all businesses in Canada, and representing, on average, 30% of our national GDP, playing a very important role in job creation.

Small businesses do not always have the ability to pay a full salary to a summer employee, to be able to expand the services, or respond to extra demand over the summer. This federal incentive of the CSJ program is the element that allows them to hire young, inexperienced staff who will benefit from the training that they receive, but also bring new ideas and experience to the workplace.

A third priority is with regard to the official language minority communities. This program also considers organizations that support employment opportunities for official language minority communities as a national priority.

It is no secret that minority language groups often experience challenges in maintaining the vitality of their language and culture. The CSJ programs helps by promoting the delivery of bilingual service and the use of the second language in the workplace. I know the francophone communities in British Columbia and Vancouver experienced this to be a very useful support for all of the hard work they do, often on a volunteer basis, to maintain and increase the services and vibrancy of their communities.

A fourth priority of this Canada summer jobs program is organizations that offer services or support to the LGBTQ2 community. Our government recognizes that all individuals should have the right to live according to their sexual identity, and to express that identity without discrimination. Why does the CSJ program give priority to organizations that provide opportunities for young people in the LGBTQ2 community? Simply because it is the right thing to do. This community has always been discriminated against in the workplace. Even today, members of the LGBTQ2 community earn less than their peers. Therefore, having an opportunity for a summer job can help bridge that opportunity gap.

Science and technology is a key theme for our government, and for our country's future. The CSJ program will place a particular focus on organizations that support job opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors, as well as the information and communications technologies sectors, particularly for women.

Already in my constituency of Vancouver Quadra, UBC has been a beneficiary of the CSJ program to increase the opportunities it can provide to students, and the work that can be done during the summer months for the very important programs, particularly research.

I am very pleased to hear that this is now an explicit priority for the program to support our vision of making Canada a global innovation centre. This complements the historic investments in research that budget 2018 has just announced, which I am thrilled by, as are so many Canadians. By helping employers create early work experiences in the areas of science and technology, our government enables students to consider careers in the high-demand well-paid occupations that are shaping the future of the country.

Women tend to be less represented in the STEM sector. Women need to have equal opportunities to participate. This year, employers in that category are actively encouraged to consider employing women, because we know that the proportion of women is too low in science and technology. We want to think about ways that we can help reverse that trend through our government initiatives.

Service Canada will evaluate the applications based on the eligibility conditions and the local MP's priorities as well, because local MPs understand what makes sense on the ground in terms of supporting the government's larger direction, and all eligible applications are ranked by their evaluation score.

These are the key evaluation criteria for the CSJ program. They help ensure that the program brings benefits to our citizens, their families, and the students. In this spirit, the CSJ program will not fund organizations whose primary activities involve partisan political activities, or whose activities do not respect or do actively undermine established individual human rights in Canada. That is not what government money or the CSJ program should be for.

There has been some representation on behalf of some groups and persons who have been critical of our evaluation criteria. However, I want to assure members of this House, and the people following this debate, that there is ample opportunity for those who are supporting Canada's rights and values to access this program. Many organizations are clear that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on the freedoms of religion or conscience, or any other rights that people enjoy.

I am very happy that the CSJ program will continue to bring important benefits to young Canadians and their communities for decades to come.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech sounded very practical, and yet at the same time, it was untruthful, because the comment that this is open to all organizations, which want to help that are of a religious nature, is not true. Clearly, there has not been a study on that side of the House of what faith means to the average person who has a faith.

A pastor from my hometown of Esterhazy sent this paragraph, and asked me to share it. I will read it quickly, and then ask the member to comment on it. He wrote, “We have received a notification that our application must be resubmitted because the attestation cannot be altered or modified, the 'I attest' box must be checked and the application signed. However, as was explained to you in our application, the requirement of the government to force us to make the attestation is very discriminatory. In fact, we believe it to be a violation of our constitutional rights. Compelled speech violates the long held democratic rights that have existed in Canada before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have been reiterated in the charter and are recognized in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Our religious beliefs and obligations, our conscience, our beliefs, thoughts, and opinions all preclude us from making the attestation as set out with the application and guide including the supplementary information. That is the reason why we include a note regarding the attestation in our original application.”

Clearly, there are many organizations that want to participate, that should participate, and are being held back because of this attestation.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's question gives me an opportunity to reinforce and confirm that it is not about the beliefs of an organization. Organizations are not being asked to submit their beliefs to any test.

I have a huge respect and admiration for faith communities of all stripes, because of the kinds of services they provide to their community, and the assistance they provide in their communities. There are many faith communities that have in the past and will continue to be part of the CSJ program.

The attestation is about the job. What is the purpose of the job, and the organization's core mandate which means its activities, not its beliefs. It is not appropriate for government dollars to go to a job, or an activity, that is not consistent with Canada's value around a woman's right to choose, or around the inclusion and equal opportunity for the LGBTQ2 community.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely delicate issue, and I will say that the NDP agrees with the Liberal government that public funds should not be used to pay students whose job or mission would be to undermine constitutional rights, like women's right to control their own bodies and make their own choices. On that subject, you either are a feminist or you are not. You either respect women's rights or you do not.

However, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary whether she would agree that this news was announced in a confusing way. Many churches and faith groups in our ridings provide community services that are totally unrelated to this part of their ideology, such as running day camps for children. These people feel sort of threatened or targeted by the government's approach, even though the work that the students would be doing is really about serving the public and the community.

Opposition Motion—Canada Summer Jobs ProgramBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for his question. It is not always easy to communicate a change in an initiative or process to the entire country or population of Canada. It is very important, and it is a privilege for us, as MPs, to be able to talk to our constituents and to religious and non-religious groups to explain the goal and objectives of this program and how its regulation and the changes made by the government can better promote Canadian values. The jobs can serve the public good, as the member was saying.