BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
As the school year comes to an end, many students are beginning their hunt for summer jobs. These jobs are important. Not only because students are able to earn money for school and extracurricular activities, but also for the valuable work experience and life lessons.
That is why the Canada Summer Jobs Program is so important, and why I am so disappointed that this year the Liberal government made the decision to politicize this program by adding a values test to the application process.
The right to freedom of belief and opinion is guaranteed by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is concerning that funding decisions have been made based on whether or not you hold a certain belief.
I have heard from many local organizations that did not feel comfortable signing this attestation and made the difficult decision not to apply this year. Others filled out the application and included a note explaining why they couldn’t sign it.
Unfortunately, according to the government’s response to an order paper question I had tabled in the House of Commons, a total of 1559 applications in Canada were turned away because they refused to sign the attestation. This number doesn’t include the countless other organizations that decided not to apply at all.
Also concerning are reports that this funding has gone to third-party organizations like Leadnow Society and Tides Canada. Leadnow and Tides Foundation were both named in an official complaint to Elections Canada regarding alleged foreign money and foreign interference in the last federal election.
Since I was elected in 2011, I have taken great pride in being able to assist Service Canada in the Canada Summer Jobs decision-making process. Unfortunately, this year I felt that I couldn’t take part knowing that so many organizations felt pressure to sign something that made them feel uncomfortable and who decided not to take part.
The politicization of this program means that many students will be out of jobs this summer, and the organizations that were denied funding may not be able to help care for persons with disabilities, refugees or provide day camp for children in need. This is unacceptable.
Questions still remain about what this values test may lead to next. It’s concerning to think that a similar test may be applied to Canadians receiving other services, including organizations that receive charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency.
It is my sincere hope that our local organizations who did not receive funding this year because of this values test will be able to find other ways to hire local students.
I would encourage those affected to contact my office so that I can share your stories and raise your concerns with the Honourable Patty Hajdu, the minister responsible for the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
I will also be presenting a petition in the House of Commons with signatures from Canadians who are against the attestation.
Hopefully, if the government hears from enough Canadians who disagree with this values test, it will not happen again.