MPs continue to introduce petitions into the House by Canadians who opposed the Canada Summer Jobs policy.Photo Illustration: Grandin Media

Prime Minister defends funding of job protesting Kinder-Morgan pipeline

The Canada Summer Jobs controversy refuses to die after the Prime Minister defended the funding of a job that will organize protests against the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline.

“We will not remove funding from advocacy organizations because we as a government happen to disagree with them,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said April 25 during Question Period.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pointed out Trudeau’s commitment to freedom of speech would come as a surprise to the member of his caucus he disciplined for voting for a Conservative motion to remove the pro-abortion attestation required on all Canada Summer Jobs applications for groups not engaging in activism.

MP Scott Simms, the lone Liberal MP who voted for the attestation to be dropped for groups doing non-advocacy charitable work, has been punished for exercising his freedom of conscience. Simms has been stripped of his chairmanship of the House of Commons Fisheries Committee, and the additional salary of $11,900 that goes with it.

Liberal MP Scott Simms, who represents the Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame riding in Newfoundland, lost his position as chair of the House Fisheries Committee and the $11,900 salary that goes with it for breaking ranks.

“There is nobody who believes that the Prime Minister is committed to free speech when he punishes all those in this country who do not agree with his personal point of view,” Scheer said.

“What we are talking about here is not the principle of free speech. Yes, we all agree on that. We are talking about taking tax dollars from people who are out of work in the energy sector and giving it to people who are trying to block a project in the national interest. That is shameful and Conservatives will stop that.”

“Once again, Mr. Speaker, we see the true colours of these Harper Conservatives shining through,” the Prime Minister shot back. “The commitment that this government has made to stand up and defend reproductive rights and the rights of women at every single opportunity is one that sticks in their craw. We will not apologize for ensuring that women’s rights are protected across this country.”

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre of the Carleton, Ont. riding. brought up Waupoos Farm, a Catholic charity in his riding “that provides free vacations to poor families that could not otherwise afford one.”

“The Prime Minister cut its summer jobs funding this year because it refused to attest to supporting his ideology, and yet today he claims that an organization that seeks a summer student for the express purpose to ‘stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline’ gets the money under the Prime Minister’s defence of free speech,” Poilievre said. “Why does free speech only apply to those trying to kill Canadian jobs and not to those trying to help the less fortunate?”

“Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada is the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we will always stand up to defend Canadians’ charter rights. Organizations that cannot ensure that they will abide by the principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that indeed will work to take away the charter rights of Canadians, will not get funding from this government,” Trudeau said.

“I know the members opposite do not like that, because it means standing up for women’s rights and reproductive rights, but it also means we will be unequivocal in always standing up to defend the charter rights of all Canadians.”

“Mr. Speaker, we just witnessed the Prime Minister accuse the Waupoos Farm of attacking the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Poilievre, “This is an organization that provides low-income families with a rare recreational opportunity, the chance to have a vacation that they could not otherwise afford. It does not impose any values of any kind on those families. Waupoos Farm invites them and gives them an opportunity to recreate together and grow.”

Trudeau continued to defend the attestation. “We are simply saying that if organizations want to move forward and get funding from the government, they need to demonstrate they are supporting the charter,” he told the House. “I think that is a minimal thing we can expect of any organization we fund.”

Meanwhile, MPs continue to introduce petitions into the House by Canadians who opposed the Canada Summer Jobs policy. On Apr. 26, Conservative MP Diane Finley of the Haldimand—Norfolk, Ont. riding and Conservative MP Kevin Sorenson of the Battle River—Crowfoot Riding in Alberta both presented petitions in the House regarding the Canada Summer Jobs program.

MP Diane Finley

Finley tabled four petitions, raising the total number of petitioners to 1,1161.

“They are calling on the government to remove the discriminatory attestation requirement from the Canada summer jobs application and to respect the charter of rights of all Canadians, even those Canadians whose views differ from the political ideology of the government of the day,” Finley said.

“These constituents are petitioning the House of Commons to oppose the Liberal government’s plan to discriminate against faith-based employers and students in the summer job program, and they are doing so with the belief that all Canadians should be allowed to hold different beliefs from that of the government of the day,” said Sorenson.