Mr. Speaker, this is my earliest opportunity to raise this issue of a question of privilege. It relates to this year's Canada summer jobs program. We have just received the list, and it highlights the concerns I have. Having gone through the list, I bring it forward to you at the earliest opportunity on a question of privilege.
I rise on a question of privilege regarding a matter that members will appreciate does not fall within certain enumerated rights and immunities for the House to treat as a breach of privilege, but falls within the scope of contempt, as explained by Joseph Maingot at page 226 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada. He writes:
In addition to these enumerated rights and immunities that are necessary for the House and its Members to perform their legislative function, the House of Commons may also examine any direct or indirect act or omission other than an attack or disregard of the enumerated rights and immunities, and if the House is of the view that any such act or omission tends to obstruct or impede the House or its Members in their parliamentary functions, the House may declare such act or omission to be a contempt of Parliament and invoke its penal jurisdiction, whether or not there is a precedent.
Page 81 of Bosc and Gagnon says:
There are...other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege: tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House...its Members, or its officers.
I have been dealing with the summer jobs program for 14 years. I was elected in 2004. The government's value test has impeded my role as a member of Parliament, and I would like to share with members in what way.
This year's Canada summer jobs program started with an email from Service Canada on December 8, 2017. I received that email. It was probably a common email that was sent to every member of Parliament. It stated:
As a Member of Parliament (MP), you will have the opportunity to fulfill the following roles in the delivery of CSJ:
1. promote the CSJ program within your constituency;
2. participate in establishing local priorities;
3. validate the list of recommended projects; and,
4. notify successful applicants.
I did respond to the Service Canada representative, who actually did a very good job. I talked to her on the phone and asked what the definition of reproductive rights was within the new attestation requirement. She could not answer, so I responded to her with the following email, which I sent on December 13, within a few minutes of talking to her on the phone, just to clarify what we had talked about. I said:
I agree with the Canada Summer Jobs 2018 priorities on the condition that the new attestation requirement will not restrict organizations from receiving Canada Summer Jobs 2018 funding if they object to the definition of reproductive rights and refuse to sign the attestation agreement. There may be controversial reproductive issues that have nothing to do with their funding application and should not render their application incomplete or ineligible. You were unable to define what is the program's definition of reproductive rights and I look forward to your response. Until then, my approval is conditional.
Just a couple of minutes later, she acknowledged receiving the email and said, “It was good speaking with you today. Thank you for sending the email so promptly. As soon as I have a response to your inquiry, I will be in contact with you. I look forward to connecting with you in the new year.”
The next correspondence I received from Service Canada was not a response to my questions. It was the list. Therefore, I never had the definition of reproductive rights in the requirements.
Then, I received this list. As I said, I have been doing this for 14 years. I went over previous years' lists, from 2015, 2016, and 2017, and often the same people were applying and providing incredible job opportunities for youth in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove. I noticed that all of them were in the not-for-profit sector, and I really liked that. I also looked at the assessment score. Out of 100, it went from 87 down to 73, for all those that were recommended on the approved list.
Then I looked at this year's list, and it is not on par with what happened. There are so many people and organizations in my riding that are not on the new recommended list. The assessment code went from 87 to 73; it now starts at a much lower assessment rating of 73 down to 48, so there has been a major change. There are a number of constituent groups that were not able to apply and were rejected. The groups that have asked me to bring this to the attention of the House are Northwest Langley Baptist Church, Christian Life Assembly, Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church, Brookwood Baptist Church, North Langley Community Church, Willoughby Church, Riverside Calvary Chapel, Loft Country, Living Waters, and Power to Change.
There was one additional group, which was providing jobs for recovering young women. It was teaching them how to build and install cabinets as part of their recovery program. Unfortunately, that applicant, again, was not able to apply.
To deny certain Canadian taxpayers access to provincial programs or grants because of their belief, faith, personal conscience, or opinion, all of which are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even if they are contrary to the views or policies of the Liberal Party of Canada, is an offence and a breach of privilege, and it impedes my ability to represent the community and to administer the summer jobs program on behalf of my constituents, as I am required to do.
I believe the House can consider these acts by the government to fall within the scope of contempt. Parliamentary Privilege in Canada explains it this way at page 226:
This is why it is said that the “privileges” of the House cannot be exhaustively codified; there are many acts or omissions that might occur where the House would feel compelled to find that a contempt has taken place, even though such acts or omissions do not amount to an attack on or disregard for any of the enumerated rights and immunities.
Mr. Speaker, if you find that this is a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion and send this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I look forward to your ruling.