There has been a lot of coverage on the decision by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to eliminate funding for the student summer job centres across Canada. This blog post is designed to critically examine the policy rationale behind then move and provide a brief overview of some of the reactions that have been forthcoming in the wake of Minister Diane Finley's decision. I should note that I don't generally revisit topics, but since I've received hundreds of emails from my readers asking me to comment on this issue further I though it was appropriate.
By way of background, let us take a look at the purpose of these centres. The initiative was first established back in 1968 as a pilot project in Saskatchewan and had been funded summer for over forty years. The purpose was to assist students across the country find seasonal employment. The program was remarkably successful in helping hundreds of thousands of young Canadian gain crucial experience in the labour market.
The decision to cut funding to these centres was made in January, but wasn't publicly announced and the information only came to light after a leak. Minister Finley's justification was the decision was that youth themselves requested in light of the need for better online services. Considering the lack of consultation and secretive nature of the decision it appears that this reasoning is ill-informed at best and probably an example of demagoguery.
With the official youth unemployment rate hovering around 14.5%, the real youth unemployment rate pushing 20%, and the labour market participation rate for youth falling in the wake of the recession - this decision stands as proof that the current Federal government is willing to put ideological partisanship far ahead of the actual needs of young workers. This is a significant problem as targeting young workers for cuts is bad for the economy - young people experience economic scarring, small businesses are denied access to eager young workers, and the corporate sector is denied the opportunity to impart crucial skills in face of looming labour market shortage.
With the continuing problems in the youth labour market it makes absolutely no sense to eliminate a crucial support system for young people trying to enter the labour market, especially from a government that holds up economic development as the centrepiece of its policy agenda. If anything, the student summer job centres should have seen their funding increased alongside a greater focus on providing services over the internet for young job seekers as part of a coordinated policy response to youth unemployment in Canada.
The public response to the cuts has been highly critical. Letters to the editors, articles, and editorials have all criticized the Federal government's decision in this matter. Here's a sample of the response broken down regionally. Western Canada: Victoria Times Colonist, Portage Daily Graphic; Central Canada: Windsor Star, Toronto Star, Belleville Intelligencer, The Globe and Mail, Canadian University Press; Atlantic Canada: Western Star, The Georgian.
It's important to cast this decision as part of a sustained anti-worker/anti-family strategy that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is currently pursuing at the expense of a sustainable economic growth; particularly, this strategy explicitly economically assaults young Canadians through various policy initiatives. From supporting discriminatory orphan clauses at Canada Post to creating an EI backlog thereby creating barriers for unemployed Canadians from accessing benefits to Minister Finley's deliberate attempt at intergenerational fracturing to build support for widely unpopular (and totally unnecessary) changes to pensions.
There's a twisted logic underpinning the policy direction and it's targeting young people in their 20's and 30's. Finally, let's remember the lip service that Minister Finley has previously given to youth unemployment and student debt. Check out the clip below and ask yourself if this decision is coming from someone who cares about young people? See: