Ottawa/Queen's Park




Dear Editor,
I write to you today to express serious concern over an issue that has recently come to light regarding the Canada Summer Jobs Program (CSJ). For years, the CSJ Program has provided funding to employers across Canada to hire young Canadians for summer job placements. This has always been done in a non-partisan fashion. However, I have learned that the Government is attempting to politicize this process by forcing employers to agree with the Government's own ideology and priorities and will therefore be punishing those who do not.
I have learned that the Liberals have tried to quietly, without any consultation with Members of Parliament or Canadian employers, change the process through which employers apply for funding through the CSJ Program. The Government is now requiring those who apply for funding to sign an "attestation" that the employer agrees to uphold certain "values"—values that align with the Liberal Party's own ideology. This is unacceptable and, I would argue, is inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Essentially, what the Government is doing through this process is requiring businesses to swear an oath to the Government. It is unnecessary and unthinkable. There should be absolutely no requirement for a business to be subjected to this. In my mind it's simple – employers that follow the law and meet the non-partisan requirements should be eligible. There is no room for politics in this process. Apparently, that is not how it works in the mind of this Government. According to this Government, only those that agree with their priorities and ideology should be eligible for funding.
This change was quietly introduced in response to a situation that unfolded earlier this year that involved a Liberal MP allocating about $50,000 in CSJ funding to a pro-life association. This organization met all of the requirements to receive funding but because they do not agree with the Prime Minister, they are now being punished. They did not break any laws. They are just simply pro-life. These new changes will certainly ensure that this group will be ineligible for funding this year.
Plain and simple, this is an attack on Canadians' freedoms. Throughout Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, there are numerous churches and religiously motivated organizations that receive annual funding through the CSJ Program and have received this funding for years. Typically, these funds are used to run summer camps and programs etc. I know that many young people who work at these programs gain valuable work experience over the course of the summer, particularly those who have chosen to enter into Early Childhood Education.
In no way are the funds used for any unlawful purpose as this Government seems to suggest. This new requirement for an attestation would leave these institutions two options. Option 1 would be to sign the attestation against their own beliefs and religion – which for most is not an option. Option 2 would be to lose the funding and cancel their programs. Religious institutions should never be treated this way by their own Government. This Government is bullying these groups to conform to the Government's wishes and way of thinking.
This runs counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so many ways. The Charter explicitly protects the freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of opinion. To punish employers applying for non-partisan funding simply because they have different views and ideology than the Government of the day is unacceptable and runs counter to the freedoms that I just listed.
I am frankly beyond disappointed, but not surprised, that this Government has sunk to this level. To politicize something as simple as funding to ensure young people in Canada have jobs for the summer truly shows what this Government is capable of. I do not always agree with the Prime Minister on a number of things both at a policy and ideological level. I do not believe in liberalism, I do not believe in socialism or communism. However, disagreeing with the government in no way should affect my ability to access Government services. For example, if the Prime Minister were to apply this same process to eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS), I am sure that there would be a number of seniors that would either be forced to lie on their "attestation" or be forced to live without benefits that they are entitled to. Simply because they disagree with this Government.
In the coming weeks I will be pressuring the Government to remove this ridiculous requirement in the application process for the CSJ program and will be watching closely to ensure that employers in my riding are not rejected for refusing to swear to abide by this Government's priorities.
Furthermore, I urge any business or other organization that applies for funding under CSJ to contact my office in the event that you have been turned down because of the partisan changes spelled out above.
Larry Miller, MP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound



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