On March 19, the Liberals and NDP teamed up to defeat a Conservative motion to drop the Canada Summer Jobs attestation – which requires small businesses and charities to attest to their support of abortion and same-sex “marriage” to qualify for subsidies for summer student employment – for organizations that are not involved in political advocacy. It was a bit of political gamesmanship designed to embarrass the government, but also attack the idea that the federal government should set ideological litmus tests in order to qualify for government programs.

One Liberal, Scott Simms, and one NDP, David Christopherson, joined the Conservatives and Green Party leader Elizabeth May in supporting the motion.  Both said they supported abortion but thought the government went overboard with the attestation requirement. Both were punished by their parties for failing to toe the party line.

Simms said, “I thought the attestation was an insensitive measure to those who felt strongly about this, whether they were pro-life or pro-choice.” He said the government “could have handled it better.”

Christopherson explained why he voted for the motion: “that box took away Canadians’ right to disagree with the laws that they have to obey. I had a very strong, fundamental problem with that.”

Simms was stripped by the Liberal leadership of his chairmanship of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. While Justin Trudeau said candidates for the Liberal Party had to be pro-abortion, he also vowed free votes on bills and motions that are not confidence issues or issues covered in the party’s 2015 election platform.

The chairman’s job comes with a $11,900 pay bump.

Simms told the Huffington Post, “they removed me from the committee because of my vote.” He said he was “OK” with the decision and did not regret his vote for the motion. Simms said he was aware it was a whipped vote so was prepared for the punishment.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh removed Christopherson as vice-chair of the Common’s Procedure and House Affairs committee. The vice-chair position comes with a $5,900 boost in salary. However, Singh’s caucus colleagues spoke out publicly about his punishment and Singh reversed his decision.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said Singh’s punishment showed a “lack of respect” while MP Romeo Saganash, called it “unfortunate.”

Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood) issued a letter condemning the attestation. The National Post obtained the letter and reprinted parts of it, in which McKay said the “current government has inadvertently fallen into the trop of preferencing one right over another and of using the Charter to protect itself from perceived abuse by citizens.” He said that “applications for government grants that engage in non-political, non-activist work should be free of ideological bias and political preference.”

McKay said he consulted with the Liberal Party whip, Pablo Rodriguez, to ensure he could skip the vote and not violate his conscience. Because he did not vote for the motion, McKay did not face party discipline for his opposition to the government’s attestation.

Meanwhile, it was revealed the Trudeau government – like the Conservatives before them – are providing summer student funding to the Dogwood Initiative, an activist group that will use the money to have students protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline development in British Columbia.

The Conservatives criticized Trudeau during Question Period about funding activist groups. The Prime Minister said he believed in freedom of speech, to which Conservative leader Andrew Scheer responded incredulously: why does the government require businesses and charities to agree with it on other issues like abortion.

Trudeau defended, “The commitment that this government has made to stand up and defend reproductive rights and the rights of women at every single opportunity.” He added: “We will not apologize for ensuring that women’s rights are protected across this country.”