moved that the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance, presented on Thursday, June 12, 2014, be concurred in.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today about the report of the Standing Committee on Finance, which I worked on with my colleagues from , and and even my colleague from , who paid us a visit to speak about the issue of unpaid internships.
It is very important to speak about this today because this study was conducted over almost 10 meetings. That is a fairly long study, but this is a very important issue. We are talking about youth unemployment. which is a rather complex issue. At the outset, I would like to say that I was very pleased to see that even though we sometimes disagreed on what action should be taken, the Conservative members showed a certain openness to dealing with this problem.
We must now look at the recommendations. However, before I get to that, I would like to provide a brief summary of the situation and try to clear up some of the points that the government has made about youth unemployment.
We often like to remind the government that the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average. That is quite discouraging for my generation, those between the ages of 15 and 35. That is a large group. Apparently, some of these young people are still in school. However, many of them have just graduated from university or completed different kinds of post-secondary studies and are looking for a quality job. I will come back to the issue of quality jobs a little later.
However, first and foremost, we must point out that the government often likes to tell us that an unemployment rate that is double the national average is normal. The fact that this has become normal over time does not make it acceptable. Those are two very different points. Even though in the past, following a recession, it was normal to have such a high unemployment rate, I do not find that acceptable.
When speaking about the youth unemployment rate, the government often makes the same comparison. It is even on the first page of its response to the Standing Committee on Finance. The response states that the participation rate of young people in Canada's labour market is higher than that of young people in most other developed countries.
When we talk about developed countries, we often forget to mention countries such as Italy and Greece where the unemployment rate is even higher than it is here. If I am not mistaken, the youth unemployment rate in Greece is 50%. That is incredible, but does not make for a very good comparison. With all due respect to the Greek people, that is not something we should aspire to. Saying that the bar is set very low elsewhere is not an excuse to keep it low here. We must set the bar higher.
The other question is the quality of the jobs, which I said I would come back to. It has come up several times, including at committee. It is this phenomenon called “wage scarring”. There is one Conservative member on the committee who even disputed the use of that term. I suppose it was because it was a union witness who brought it up, so maybe we can look at other folks who have talked about wage scarring in the recent weeks.
One of those is the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who also talked about wage scarring recently. Notwithstanding his comments on young people taking volunteer work, which is, of course, important, because if I am here in the House it is in large part due to some volunteer work that I did in my youth, which got me involved in my community, the question of encouraging young people to take unpaid internships and to look at volunteer work for their experience is problematic. I will explain why, because he made a link with the question of wage scarring.
The question of wage scarring is something that was brought up in a TD bank report. The TD bank said that wage scarring would have a long-term impact on young people and their future job prospects. For someone in their 20s who has just finished their post-secondary education and is working a job for which they are overqualified, it might seem only temporary, but the problem then is that they will feel its effects into adulthood and for the rest of their lives, when it becomes difficult to translate that work experience into a quality job. That is something the government fails to mention all too often.
We heard all about the job-quality phenomenon one day in committee. A Statistics Canada report indicated that there is an increasing number of educated young people who are overqualified for their jobs. These numbers have even reached historic highs in recent years, most recently in 2013. These young people have varying levels of post-secondary education, such as a university degree or a three-year CEGEP program—or a trade school or community college program, in provinces outside Quebec.
Once again, this is a growing phenomenon. However, it does not help to simply talk about the unemployment rate and make questionable comparisons to countries where the situation is not very encouraging. Unfortunately, this illustrates the government's careless approach, especially in light of the notorious Kijiji data, which my colleagues from and love to bring up.
Not only was the government unable to take any measures that reflected the realities of the labour market, but it does not even seem to want to talk about it. That is why we were happy to study these issues in committee, and that is why it is important to discuss them today.
This situation aside, it is important to look at the recommendations and solutions proposed. I was very pleased to learn that a number of witnesses who appeared in committee—from the labour, student and business worlds—supported a very good solution. I think it is a great solution, although my opinion may be a bit biased since it was proposed by the NDP, namely by the . We are talking about universal child care, and this solution was advocated by eight out of ten witnesses. Even if it was not in their presentation, they thought it would have a positive effect on young workers and especially, of course, on young female workers.
The question of child care came up at nearly every single meeting in a very positive way. Witness after witness said that even if it were not something he or she was going to be lobbying or pushing for, none of them was able to deny the positive impact that a universal child care program would have on the plight of young workers, specifically young female workers. It would make it easier for them to get the experience necessary to move on with quality employment opportunities throughout their lives and into adulthood, and hopefully one day being able to secure a proper retirement, which is a whole other issue that young people are facing but is for the moment beyond the scope of this particular study.
If we are talking about the child care question—I said this in French, but it is important that I repeat it for our hard-working interpreters—the government might have an argument saying it was only union members or union representatives at committee that were defending this point and talking about the positive impacts it could have. It was not. It was student representatives, and union representatives, yes, but also representatives from business.
After all, if we were to ask small and medium-size business owners the best way for them to get more young workers into the system to give them the long-term experience that would lead to quality jobs, which would in turn lead to quality businesses and getting the economic wheel turning, they would say that one of the solutions was obviously child care, making sure it was affordable and that workers from my generation were able to have the tools necessary to start families. That is obviously important for the economy because it is what leads to businesses and schools opening, and the strengths of our communities based on the families that decide to live in them. Obviously, in order to have that phenomenon take place, we need to give young people the tools they need to work in high-paying, quality jobs. One of those tools, as I said, is the universal child care program as proposed by the NDP. That was heard in meeting after meeting.
Despite the fact it is unfortunately not in the main committee recommendations, it is important to bring it up because it was definitely, as far as we are concerned on this side of the House, a focal point of the study. I am sure that my colleagues who were at the meetings with me would agree.
There is another important point, and this time we are very happy to see it in the committee's recommendations. It is recommendation 16.
That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada [which is a laudable goal], such as tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30.
I am very pleased to be speaking about this recommendation because it is exactly what I proposed in a press conference with the hon. member for last fall. To explain it in the context of our discussion here, the NDP's proposal builds on the general hiring tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses.
We want to offer that tax credit for hiring youth and training them as well. It ties in directly with the reality facing young people in terms of quality jobs, which I described earlier and which we heard about a number of times during the committee meetings.
Sometimes, the skills and qualities of a young person are matched with an employer. Then there is the question of training. I want to explain our proposal because, after all, this recommendation looks a lot like what we proposed.
This is not about replacing workers who have seniority. For example, I do not mean to criticize them, but this is not about allowing McDonald's to fire a worker who has been there for 30 years in order to hire a young person for so-called cheap labour.
The youth hiring tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses that we are proposing is meant above all for expansion. For example, a business that is expanding and considers creating new long-term positions would receive this tax credit to hire and train a young person. The youth hired would be assured of a long-term job and good training. It is important for communities to have young people with quality, well-paid jobs.
We would also like this tax credit to be doubled in parts of the country where the youth and general unemployment rates are extremely high compared to the national average. That is a good way to foster youth employment.
After all, if the youth unemployment rate is double the national average, it goes without saying that it is even higher in areas where the general rate is higher than the national average. I am thinking of the Atlantic provinces, for instance, where there are huge unemployment problems.
The other recommendation I would like to speak about is recommendation number nine, which discusses this whole question of unpaid internships. We had the pleasure of having my colleague, the member for , join us for the meetings. That was important because he has been a great ally of some of the folks who have had the courage to take their stories to the media and talk about the way they were treated as interns, and some of the high profile cases that we have seen in the last couple of years. One of those cases resulted in a death, tragically, due to the fact we do not have the proper measures in place for how to apply the Canada Labour Code to unpaid internships and how young unpaid interns working in these positions are treated.
We had several witnesses at committee speak to this particular issue. It goes without saying that they support the bill that my colleague from has proposed, seconded of course by the member for . The bill seeks not only to improve protection of unpaid interns, but also to move away from this model and create more and more proper opportunities, as opposed to simply having coffee and photocopy runners in companies that are under federal jurisdiction, such as telecommunications companies, banks, and so on.
Once again, not only would this protect young workers who are, in some cases, desperate to find very good experiences in the work place, but it would also go a long way to addressing the point I have been making so far, which is the question of high quality jobs. One way we could encourage this is by making sure that companies are offering high quality internship experiences, which, of course, would have the domino effect of leading young people to take jobs in these sectors as they move forward in their careers.
It is important to mention that when it comes to unpaid internships, if we read the government response to this committee report, one of the points it mentioned seemed to be very light in terms of taking concrete action.
The government said that it would continue to monitor the situation and left this wishy-washy element of the Canada Labour Code that says that employers are obliged to discuss with employees the risks associated with their jobs without mentioning how they are actually treated in their jobs. It also talks about continuing to consult with provincial and territorial authorities. I am concerned about that particular line, because we do not want to see this as a situation in which we are passing the buck.
As with another NDP proposal that speaks to a federal minimum wage, unpaid internships are a great example of where we can show federal leadership on an issue. By adopting the bill that my colleague from has proposed, we could set the example of not only protecting unpaid interns who are working for companies under federal jurisdiction but also show the lead for a lot of provinces. We are pleased to see this action, but from what we have seen so far, it is definitely the provinces that have taken the lead in their jurisdictions. As in all issues that affect our country, often it would require both actors to take care of what is under their jurisdiction, and that is something we hope will happen. There have been some pretty tragic examples. I spoke of the death of one individual.
As I said, my colleague from has been a leader on this issue. The witnesses at committee were happy to see him there and congratulated him on the work that he has done.
Given the recommendation from the finance committee on the need to properly support internships in our country, we definitely hope that the government will support the bill put forward by my colleague from . It is important for young people not only now but also in the future.
I would like to go over some issues that were raised in committee. The NDP makes solid proposals. We proposed a youth hiring tax credit, which is just a first step toward creating good jobs for young people. My colleague from introduced a bill about unpaid internships. To me, these two tangible measures are the most important ones because they flow directly from the recommendations in this report. We hope that the government will support our measures because, after all, the Standing Committee on Finance recommended them.
There are other recommendations that do not stand out as much, but that we still need to talk about. Among these is training mobility among the provinces. The government announced its intention to make it easier for workers to move. In committee, many people commented that they would not want that movement to hurt the regions too much. All the same, we have to understand and accept the realities of the labour market.
Unfortunately, the recommendation as written does not address the importance of close collaboration between the federal government and the provinces and territories on the worker training front. I wanted to talk about this because the government has not always been very good at working with the federation even though the Conservative ministers’ announcements suggest good intentions, as do the questions that Conservative members ask the witnesses. We have to collaborate on worker training because agreements have already been signed. The government still has work to do. It has to respect what the provinces and territories want. That is an essential part of the federal government's leadership.
I would like to reiterate the importance of considering the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Finance regarding youth internships and the question of tax credits for businesses that hire young people. The government likes to brag about its record when it comes to youth employment, but the fact is that youth unemployment remains a problem. It is unacceptable that it is twice as high as the national average.
It is also important to create high-quality jobs, and not McJobs. Our future and my generation are depending on it.
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking and congratulating the members of the finance committee for their excellent report on the challenges facing young Canadians in the labour market. Thanks also to the for the government's response that has just been tabled.
The fact that some young people face special challenges getting into the workplace is not a new revelation, nor is it a situation that is unique to Canada. It is a global issue. Every country faces it, and every country must respond in some way to the challenge.
In Canada, as we know, the average unemployment rate for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 is slightly more than twice what it is for people in the 25 and older group. Last year the youth unemployment rate was 13.7% compared to just 5.9% for those aged 25 and older. This is in comparison to the United States, where the youth unemployment rate in 2013 was 15.5%, and the United Kingdom, where it was over 20%. In fact, over the past decade or so, the youth unemployment rate in Canada has been well below the average of the OECD countries.
While it is certainly good to know that we are doing better than many of our major trading partners, it is still an issue that demands constant attention from the federal government.
Ours is a multi-faceted approach that starts, quite reasonably, at the beginning, when young people are still in school. Since 2006 our government has helped over six million youth obtain skills, training, and jobs, and there is still more to do.
The federal government transfers large amounts of money to the provinces to support post-secondary education, but it has also developed specific initiatives to ensure that young people are aware of all the career options available to them. The more young people know about the labour market and what is required in it, the more likely they are to pursue an education or a career path that will see them working in a field related to their training.
For example, the government is investing $8 million per year in a job vacancy survey that will provide better information on in-demand occupations, job openings, length of job vacancies, education and skill requirements, and other relevant facts. It will greatly expand the scope of our knowledge by increasing data collection from employers. Similarly, a new national wage survey will collect more information from more employers and will provide a much clearer picture of the real situation on the ground by province and by territory.
We are also improving the job bank, which currently gets more than 60 million visits per year. The job bank allows job seekers to search by occupation, industry, skills required, and location and has up-to-date labour market information.
After launching the job alerts system, we currently have over 380,000 subscribers who receive daily emails about the jobs listed in the job bank as well as up-to-date information on the job market. A new job-matching service allows Canadians to apply directly through the Canada job bank for jobs that match their skills and experience.
Another refinement will be the career choice tool that will tell students, parents, and other influencers, such as guidance counsellors, whether or not graduates of a particular program found jobs, what kind of jobs they found, how much money they made, and what jobs in that field are available right now.
All these initiatives give students an eyes-wide-open approach to planning their studies. The goal is to see them enter the labour market much better prepared and better able to take advantage of the opportunities available now and in the future.
There are a number of other government actions worth mentioning. For example, the sectoral initiatives program funds national partnership-based projects that support the development and distribution of labour market information aimed at helping Canadians make more informed career and training decisions.
The government has also developed new kinds of outreach to promote careers in high demand areas, such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and skilled trades.
Instead of just telling young people to stay in school and get a degree, the government has shifted the emphasis to encourage young people to consider a career in the skilled trades. That is not to say that people should not get a university degree. We still need lots of them with the right kind of higher education, such as in the STEM fields, as well as the drive to make our economy prosper. The point is that we need both. We need young people to know that having a skilled trade can be just as rewarding and in several cases even better paying than jobs that require a degree.
Promoting the skilled trades as a career option also helps us develop a more qualified and more mobile workforce and opens opportunities across the country for young people. To help students make choices, we also have the registered apprenticeship information system, which provides data on the number of apprentices taking in-class and on-the-job training in trades and on how many provincial and interprovincial certificates are granted to apprentices.
At the same time, the government continues to create a new and better way to help students and their families plan and save for education. With the registered education savings plan, for example, families can put away tax-sheltered money to use for their children's education.
There is also the Canada education savings grant and the Canada learning bond. The CESG could provide up to $7,200 toward a child's RESP. Parents receiving the national child benefit supplement might be eligible for Canada's learning bond, which may provide $2,000 toward an RESP.
The government has created tax-free savings accounts, which young people and their families can use to save money for education. Today about 30% of the assets of Canadians under 35 are held in tax-free savings accounts.
We should not forget the Canada student loan and the Canada student grants programs that have put post-secondary education within the reach of every Canadian student. In the last fiscal year, about $2.6 billion in loans went out to some 477,000 students, and nearly $700 million went out in grants to some 350,000 students. These programs have also been updated to make them work better for students. For example, the money people can earn without affecting the amount of their loans while still studying was increased to $100 per week from $50. Also, the accumulation of interest on loans during the study period by part-time students has been eliminated, and the value of student-owned vehicles is no longer taken into account.
That is not all. The Canada student loans program has been expanded to include a new Canada apprentice loan, which will help apprentices registered in the Red Seal trades cover the costs of their technical training. It will provide over $100 million a year in interest-free loans to more than 26,000 eligible apprentices.
As one can see, there are a number of programs now in place that are helping more and more students make the right learning and training choices for their jobs into the future. The government will continue to work to improve these initiatives, and I hope my hon. colleagues will support this effort.
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to the important issue of youth unemployment.
I listened to my New Democrat friends talk in particular about recommendation number 16. Following the NDP talking about that recommendation, the government then said in answer to a question I posed that people want action and results, not necessarily more studies. This somewhat contradicts, at least the latter part of my comment about not having more studies or committees not doing more work, which somewhat contradicts what recommendation number 23 states.
I hope to go through a number of the recommendations. I would like to address recommendation numbers 16 and 23, and I will start by reading verbatim what recommendation 16 states. It says, “That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30.”
The New Democratic Party has emphasized that recommendation, and the Conservative government has said that it needs to take action. I have a question that I would like to put to both the NDP and the Conservatives.
The leader of the Liberal Party introduced a wonderful idea that would have dealt with recommendation 16. Members will remember the EI premium exemption that was suggested by the Liberal Party and that was brought to the House for a vote. That EI premium exemption would have provided a tax exemption for every worker who is hired to fill a new job in 2015-16. Who would have been the biggest benefactor had the government and the New Democratic Party recognized that as being a good idea? The biggest benefactors would be the young people of Canada, no matter where they live. Had the government acted on that policy, young people from coast to coast to coast would benefit. They would be employed.
I was surprised to a certain degree with respect to the government's total rejection of the idea, from the Prime Minister's Office down to all of the ministers. I would like to think that if a good idea is brought forward that the government, wanting to serve the people of Canada, would jump on it if it would make a positive difference. However, the government had its own tax plan in mind, the small business tax credit, which in essence would draw upon the same fund. That plan would be exceptionally more costly.
If we are to compare the two ideas, we would find that the Liberal plan would have generated well over 100,000 jobs across this country. On the other hand, the Conservative plan, even in a bizarre situation, might have led to some businesses laying off people, or it might have generated 20,000 possible jobs, on the high side. I was disappointed that the did not acknowledge how all Canadians would have benefited from the Liberal Party policy by accepting our policy.
I was quite surprised to see the New Democratic Party vote against the proposal. Think about it. Today those members are talking about it in the form of a recommendation, and the recommendation says “That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30.”
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, benefactor under that Liberal plan was those youth, who are being referred to in this recommendation.
On the one hand, we have the New Democrats saying that they love this recommendation, and they espouse about how much they like it. However, when it came down to the time to vote, what did the New Democrats do? They voted against it. I somewhat expected it from the Conservatives, but I did not expect the New Democrats would have turned down an idea that would have employed more young people from coast to coast to coast in Canada.
Let us go on to the other recommendation that I made reference to in the form of a question. Again, for the benefit of all members, I will read the recommendation verbatim from the report. It states, “That the federal government and the appropriate” and I want to underline this part because I know the loves this one:
—parliamentary committees consider further study of the following three topics: student enrolment in post-secondary institutions and the effectiveness in job preparation; student tuition fees and debt; and domestic and international youth employment rates, as well as the factors contributing to those rates.
In essence, the recommendation says that there is a very important role for our parliamentary committees to conduct studies. There are some within this chamber who do not recognize the value of having our standing committees meet. I would suggest for those members that they recognize what recommendation 23 talks about.
Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate that. The point I am trying to get across is, as it has been stated in recommendation 23, “That the federal government and the appropriate parliamentary committees consider further study of the following three topics”. Then it lists off the topics.
The Liberal Party believes the committees need to meet to have following dialogue to ensure that the work that is important gets done. We will continue to push for this.
Having said that, and listening to many different comments, let us go back to recommendation 1, which states:
That the federal government work with the provinces and territories to improve education and labour market information for secondary and post-secondary students so that they can make informed career choices. As well, efforts should be directed to promoting apprenticeships.
There is a couple of things that really come to my mind that are very important to emphasize. The national government has a role to play. We, in the Liberal Party, would ultimately argue that the national government has been found wanting in meeting the needs of fulfilling that role, that there is so much more the national government can do.
We know we have a Canada social transfer. That social transfer is in excess of $10 billion. I suspect it is probably closer to $12 billion. I do not have the hard number, but I know it is definitely well above $10 billion. What is that social transfer for?
I can bring to the chamber a perspective that goes beyond just the House of Commons, because I also served inside the Manitoba legislature. I can reflect on many of the debates that occurred there and how important it was that we had that Canada social transfer, and the role that the federal government could play in not only providing money, but even going beyond the issue of money.
The best example I can think of right off hand is something of which many apprentices throughout Canada would be very much aware. In this recommendation, it talks about promoting apprenticeships. There are apprenticeship programs in every province, primarily administered by the provinces, but the federal government does have a role to play in working with the provinces.
More and more, labour is very mobile. Labour wants to ensure that, as much as possible, it is able to benefit from education and training often received at a fairly expensive cost such as going to a college or university. It wants to ensure there is mobility. When I say mobility, I am talking about more than, for example, just becoming a specialty cook or chef and getting a certificate from the Red River College in Manitoba, and only working in Manitoba. People would like to enter into future potential employment opportunities that go beyond one province.
We have the Red Seal program that has afforded many, in many different occupations, the opportunity to not only practise the training they have acquired in one provincial jurisdiction, but to take that training and go to other jurisdictions, quite often with that Red Seal.
As we go forward into the future, I believe we will see more of a demand for things such as the Red Seal. There will be more of a demand for the federal government to look at ways in which it can work with provincial entities. When I say provincial entities, I am not just talking about the provincial government, I am also talking about other stakeholders such as our colleges, universities and other post-secondary types of facilities, even our high schools in some situations. People would be amazed at the types of education coming through our high schools today.
I have the good fortune to have Sisler High School, Children of the Earth High School, R.B. Russell Vocational School, St. John's High School, or Maples Collegiate, all in Winnipeg North. Canada's brightest and most talented graduate from those institutions every year, which might sound a bit biased. However, many of those individuals are going directly into universities, colleges and other forms of post-secondary education. Many of them will go into the private sector in the hope they will be able to continue on through apprenticeship programs.
Generally speaking, those apprenticeships programs are initiated through the provincial government and different stakeholders, in particular industry representatives. They all have an important role in recognizing those who graduate and, as much as possible, to ensure there is the right connection. It is critical that government recognize it has a role to ensure there is a connection to the type of jobs that are there today and that will be there tomorrow, and ensure that our educational facilities across the country move in a direction that will see jobs for those people who graduate.
There are certain industries, and every province has them. I often talk about Manitoba's aerospace industry. It is a very important industry to our province. It has and provides hundreds of jobs for Manitoba. The impact it has on our families, our social life, our economy is virtually immeasurable. It would be upsetting to not have the educated or those graduates to fill those jobs.
I have lost the context of time somewhat, but I believe it was three or four weeks ago that I took a tour of Magellan Aerospace. It was nice to see that it had world-class workers who were providing state-of-the-art production of military hardware. As I went through the tour, one of the places we went into was a college classroom. We have an industry working with a post-secondary facility, which has provided the chairs. Those youth, and they are primarily youth, have the benefit of having a class in a world-class manufacturing company that has some of the most expensive and totally unique capital infrastructure. It is one of the reasons why places around the world turn to Magellan to get certain parts manufactured.
These are the type of connections that are important. Governments do have a role to play in this.
The leader of the Liberal Party talks about reaching out and connecting with Canadians and the importance of the middle class. Liberals are talking about making sure that people get good, quality jobs. We are putting an emphasis on how important education is. How can we provide more opportunities for young people? Without a doubt, it is through education. Education equates to opportunities, but there are many opportunities being lost because in many ways we are not making the connections. If we read some of the committee comments with regard to other social issues that need to be addressed in order to afford people the opportunity to gain employment, especially disadvantaged youth, we would go a long way in addressing youth unemployment in Canada today.
With those few comments, my time has already expired. I only covered 3 of the 25 recommendations made. In answering a question, I may be able to cover a couple more.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
I would first like to commend the members of the finance committee for their excellent report on the employment challenges faced by young Canadians and for their recommendations.
As all hon. members know, this is a file on which the government has been particularly active and I welcome the opportunity to add a few observations to this discussion.
Let us start with the big picture. Overall, the economy is doing well. We bounced back from the 2008 recession in much better shape than most countries in the G7. On job creation, the numbers are solid. Over a million net new jobs have been created since 2009. That is 675,000 more than pre-recession levels. Contrary to what some people may think and some members of the media like to say, over 85% of the jobs that have been created are full-time positions, with more than two-thirds in high-wage industries.
As well, the IMF and the OECD expect that Canada will have one of the strongest-growing economies in the G7 for the next year, and the year after that.
Trade deals have been established with 44 countries, including South Korea and the 27 members of the European Union.
To top it all off, we will be presenting a balanced budget for next year.
The challenge is to ensure that we are thoroughly prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that are now before us.
One of the biggest opportunities is what is being called Canada's “new industrial revolution” in commodities and the extractive industries, specifically in the mining and oil and gas industries. It is estimated that investment in those areas over the next few years could reach as high as $650 billion. I am talking about offshore oil and gas in Newfoundland; precious metals in northern Quebec; mining operations in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire; new hydro developments in Manitoba; potash and uranium in Saskatchewan; bitumen reserves, oil and gas, and other resources in Alberta; and new mining developments in northern B.C. and across all three northern territories.
It is clear. We are going to need people with the skills, expertise, knowledge, and drive to see these and all other economic ventures come to fruition. This will translate into high-paying, high-quality jobs, primarily in occupations requiring university or college, or apprenticeships.
What does this opportunity mean for the young people of this country, young people who are getting ready to make the transition from school into the labour market, young people who are making the decision of what fields they are going to engage in as they go on to post-secondary education, as they go on to trades, as they go on to apprenticeships? What information do they need so they can challenge these new jobs and try to get employment for their future, to build a family, and to continue to build this great country?
First, it means that our economy is going to continue to expand and provide a huge number of opportunities for these young people.
However, as the committee report rightly points out, young people have particular challenges in getting a job and staying in the labour force. In Canada, the unemployment rate for young people is about double that of all other workers. The only good news is that young people tend to be unemployed for shorter periods of time—on average for 12 weeks, compared with twice that for workers over the age of 25.
I would like to point out that high youth unemployment is not just a Canadian phenomenon. It is a worldwide phenomenon or problem. In fact, our youth unemployment rate of 13.7% in 2013 was lower than the OECD average of 16.2%. For example, the U.S. rate was 15.5% and the rate in the U.K. was over 20%.
That being said, the government has a whole range of programs and policies to help guide and support young Canadians as they ready themselves for a positive career. These start at home with things like the registered education savings plan that allows families to put aside money in a tax-sheltered education savings account for future post-secondary education expenses. This is supplemented by the Canada education savings grant that can provide up to $7,200 more for Canadian youth for their education. Then there are Canada student loans and grants that continue to help hundreds of thousands of Canadian students pay for their post-secondary education.
As of this year, and because we want to encourage more people to get into the skilled trades, the student loan program has been extended with the $100 million a year Canada apprenticeship loan. It would help apprentices registered in the Red Seal trades to pay for technical training.
Recently, we also approved significant investments to expand the labour market information provided to young people across this country. This includes an additional $14 million annually on two new Statistics Canada surveys. Together, the surveys would provide Canadians, including youth, with relevant information on in-demand jobs by regions and by economic sectors. They would also provide reliable wage information from employers at the regional and local levels.
The youth employment strategy has a budget of over $360 million in 2014-15 and is helping young Canadians between 15 and 30 develop the skills and get the job experience they need for success in the workforce. The strategy includes such things as funding for Career Focus to support internships for post-secondary graduates and subsidies to employers to hire students through the Canada summer jobs program. Since 2006, our government has helped over six million youth obtain skills, training and jobs, and there is still more to do.
As hon. members know, the government has also transformed the labour market agreements and introduced the Canada job grant to bring private sector employers into the training mix. The Canada job grant gives employers a real stake in training programs and allows them to help shape those programs to better match their specific needs. By 2017-18, a total of $300 million per year will be invested nationally in the Canada job grant.
The government has also created more targeted supports for young people who have historically been under-represented in the labour force, particularly young aboriginal Canadians and young Canadians with disabilities. Upwards of 400,000 young aboriginal Canadians will reach working age over the next 10 years. We have a great opportunity with this population. Also, there are some 800,000 individuals with disabilities, including many young Canadians who are able to work but are not currently working, even though their disability does not prevent them from doing so. This represents enormous untapped potential.
The government is using the youth employment strategy, the opportunities funds for people with disabilities, and targeted funding for aboriginal youth to help young people in these groups get ready to participate full time in Canada's workforce.
In conclusion, a strong and growing economy marches forward on the skills and expertise of its workforce. That is why our government is committed to doing everything in its power to help young Canadians obtain the highest skill levels they can.
A stronger workforce would give us a more dynamic and faster-growing economy. This is something I am sure all of us here want to see and support for future years.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be here today and to speak to this issue.
Our government is committed to helping young people participate in the labour market. In fact, we agree with the recommendations of the finance committee's recent report on youth employment.
Canada's future success is very much dependent on the academic and economic success of our young people. Our government is keenly focused on creating jobs, growth, and economic prosperity.
That said, we are very aware of the fact that it is not the government's job to create jobs. We need to help young Canadians actually get the jobs that are available.
From helping youth access education to encouraging entrepreneurship, we offer a wide range of supports to youth. Since 2006, our government has helped over six million youth obtain skills, training, and jobs, and there is still more to do. Today I am going to focus on the programs we offer to apprentices in the skilled trades.
First let me say a few words about the growing labour market demand for skilled trade workers. BuildForce Canada tells us that the construction sector will need 300,000 new workers in the next 10 years, that the mining sector will need 145,000 more workers over the next 10 years, and that the petroleum sector will need up to 150,000 workers by 2022.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce cites estimates that there will be 550,000 unskilled workers who will not be able to find work by 2016. By 2021, the chamber says that the number of unemployed unskilled workers could be well over a million.
At the same time, the Department of Employment and Social Development estimates that there will be 5.8 million job openings over the next decade, of which two-thirds will be in high-skilled occupations requiring a post-secondary education or management skills.
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business all say that skills shortages are the greatest obstacle they face right now.
The problem is further complicated because workers of the baby boom generation are beginning to retire, taking their skills with them. Over the next decade, the Department of Employment and Social Development estimates that 4.3 million existing positions will be freed up, mainly as a result of workers retiring. The largest number of retirements will be in occupations requiring college education or skilled trades training.
In certain sectors and regions of our country the demand for skilled trade workers is growing, yet at the same time, 13.7% of young Canadians were unemployed in 2013. There is obviously a disconnect here, and I spoke of it during my by-election last fall. The question is, how do we address it?
We need to give young Canadians the right kind of labour market information. They need to know the real value of a job in the skilled trades. Somehow we have come to see getting a university degree as the only way to get a good job. While earning a bachelor's degree can lead to a well-paying job, it will not prepare people for many of the jobs available in the trades. We need to start giving jobs in the trades the same respect that we give to other occupations. I always have, but this respect is being heightened nationally at this time, and we need to send that message to young people. The youth unemployment rate is too high. It is unacceptable.
The good news is that we can bring that rate down, because job opportunities do exist for Canadians with the right skills. Therefore, to encourage more participation in the trades, we included support for apprenticeship training in all our federal budgets, including the most recent one.
Currently we have a number of financial supports available to apprentices. First, we offer the apprenticeship incentive grant, which is a $1,000 taxable cash grant for apprentices who complete the first and/or second level of their apprenticeship program in a designated Red Seal trade. Through this grant, apprentices can receive up to $2,000.
Second, we offer the apprenticeship completion grant. This is a $2,000 taxable cash grant for apprentices who successfully complete their apprenticeship training and receive their journeyperson certification in a designated Red Seal trade.
By combining these two grants, apprentices who complete their apprenticeship training in a designated Red Seal trade and become certified journeypersons may be eligible to receive up to $4,000.
To date the government has issued more than 500,000 apprenticeship grants and has provided nearly $700 million in support to apprentices to help them pursue and complete their training programs. In alone we have had 477 apprentices receive these apprenticeship completion grants since 2009. It is very effective.
Apart from the grants, the government also offers tax credits and deductions to apprentices and their employers. These include the apprenticeship job creation tax credit for employers who hire apprentices; the tradesperson's tools deduction tax credit, which allows apprentices and tradespeople to deduct the cost of their tools; and the tuition tax credit for certification and examination fees, which allows apprentices to recover some of the cost of their examination fees.
In addition to these existing incentives, we expanded the Canada apprentice loan. When the apprentices are doing their formal block training, they will be able to apply for up to $4,000 in interest-free loans. At least 26,000 apprentices are expected to benefit from the Canada apprentice loan in the first year.
I think I have demonstrated that our government provides a full range of supports to apprentices. However, financial support is not enough. There is also the issue of labour mobility.
Because skilled trades shortages are restricted to certain sectors and regions, it is vital that workers are able to move to where they are needed and have their qualifications recognized. Harmonizing apprenticeship requirements across the country will help create new opportunities in skilled trades across all of Canada. We have to coordinate our efforts in the provinces and territories to facilitate labour mobility, not restrict it, and our government is doing just that.
The Atlantic provinces are currently leading the way on this front. In January 2014, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to remove the barriers created by different training and certification requirements for apprentices in that region. So far they have harmonized requirements for 10 trades, including bricklayers, instrumentation and control technicians, and construction electricians. This is a great step forward.
The provinces have agreed to recognize each other's requirements or otherwise reconcile any unnecessary differences in their standards and regulations. This will help more Canadians get the training they need for in-demand, well-paying jobs in the skilled trades. Hopefully it will encourage more young people to pursue this career path as well.
In addition to problems with labour mobility and harmonization, there are other barriers to pursuing a career in the skilled trades. At the end of 2012, there were 360,000 people enrolled in more than 300 apprenticeship training programs, but typically only half of them complete their training and move on to get their journeyman's certificate. This may be because it is costly for young people to leave their good-paying jobs as apprentices to go do their formal technical training. That is why we will soon launch a research pilot project to support flexibility in apprenticeship training. The idea is that instead of obliging apprentices to leave the workplace and move to a college for two months of technical training, we could find innovative ways to deliver this training in a more convenient way by putting it online, for example.
Young people are the future of our country.
We have new mining projects opening up in Quebec, offshore oil in Newfoundland and Labrador, and potash oil and gas in Saskatchewan, just to name a few. We are going to need skilled, qualified workers to support those projects in the natural resources industry. That is why our programs are increasingly focused on apprenticeship in the skilled trades. The skilled trades are where the jobs of the future will be, and those are the kinds of jobs we need more young people to pursue.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand today and speak to the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance.
I would like to thank my colleagues for their work on this. I would like to thank the member for , a hard-working MP, full of energy and passion, who is very devoted to this file and really does an amazing job back in his riding as well. I would also like to thank the member for and the member for .
I would also like to thank the witnesses who participated in this study. It has led to some important recommendations. Although we are pleased to support the report as a whole, we would be remiss if we did not focus on some of the major challenges youth in Canada are facing in today's labour market, points to which I worry my colleagues across the way are not paying enough mind. We have the words; we need the action.
Since the Conservative government came to power, and over time, it has become apparent that youth employment is not a priority for the government.
I door-knock in my riding almost every weekend. Let me tell members that our youth are hurting. Young people in Surrey and their parents and grandparents all tell the same story. I am sure that MPs from coast to coast are hearing similar stories. It is our youth looking for work and parents and grandparents wanting them to have decent paying jobs so they are not helping to subsidize them. They want to see their children on their feet.
As the official opposition critic for employment and social development, I am deeply troubled when I meet youth who have good grades, who have studied hard, and who are passing out resumes left, right, and centre yet cannot get jobs at all, or at least cannot get decent hours or decent pay.
To this day, as stated in the committee's main report, Canadian youth still suffer from the effects of the economic crisis. While employment growth for Canadians as a whole was not sufficient to recover lost jobs during the crisis, young people have been particularly affected. More than 455,000 jobs for people under 25 have been lost since before the recession, and the youth unemployment rate is now double that of the population aged 25 years and older.
As Amy Huziak, from the Canadian Labour Congress, said:
Recessions are always harder on young workers, but we are nearly five years past the end of the last recession and there's still no recovery in sight for young workers.
There has not been any pick-up with respect to jobs for the cohort aged15 to 25 in this country. It does not seem right that we have missed an opportunity to get youth back into the labour market. This is where we need to focus right now.
My New Democrat colleagues and I are deeply concerned about the current labour market situation for young Canadians, and we refuse to accept soaring levels of youth unemployment as normal. It is not enough to say to our youth to just go volunteer more and work for nothing. The federal government has a responsibility to help create jobs for young people. It requires collaborating with the provinces on training, apprenticeships, and education. Why is the government not showing leadership and doing just that?
Of course, education is a major factor in social mobility. About five hours ago, I met with students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Vancouver Island University in my beautiful home province of British Columbia. They are very concerned. Youth are accepting unpaid internships in the hopes of eventually securing employment with that employer. However, unpaid internships do not pay off student debt, and they do not allow young people to move forward out of their parents' homes into homes of their own to live modestly but independently.
The pursuit of post-secondary education means that young people are able to increase their opportunities in the labour market as well as their conditions of employment. However, an increasing number of students have trouble repaying their loans, and so many are deterred from furthering their education for fear that it may result in insurmountable debt.
We have all heard stories of the growing debt students have after graduating from post-secondary institutions, in many cases, much higher than the price of the first house I bought when I graduated. Too many young workers are unemployed. The unemployment rate for youth was estimated at 27.7% last year.
There are also troubling gaps between the graduation rates of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, so we need to establish some programs to address these issues. The post-secondary graduation rate on reserves is about 14.4% compared to 39.1% for the non-aboriginal population. Even more troubling is the fact that high school graduation rates are just 36.8% on reserves compared with 66.8% for the broader population.
The first nations population is young and growing fast. Fully half of the population of 930,000 is under the age of 25 and, as it stands, the majority of first nations youth have not graduated high school. Unfortunately, the government consistently underfunds first nations education and schools. In my previous life, I had the privilege to visit some of the schools in these communities and I was outraged at the standards of the buildings, which appeared to me more like what one would expect in third world countries rather than in a developed wealthy nation like Canada.
Youth face competition in the labour market with the growth of the temporary foreign worker program. As we know, the government opened up the floodgates without too much regulation and when it got caught, it tried to do a bit of damage control. Temporary foreign workers admitted under the low-skilled occupation stream are actually competing directly with young people. All year long, case upon case has been highlighted in the media from coast to coast to coast. We are all familiar with the infamous example of the McDonald's in Victoria ignoring local students, not hiring them and giving them reduced hours in favour of paying lower wages to foreign workers. Heartbreakingly, this was one example of a countrywide crisis.
One of the issues brought forward in the material provided by the students who came to see me earlier this afternoon was that of data or, rather, the lack of it. There is a serious data shortage in Canada right now. As I have said tongue in cheek many times in the House, it is as if the government is allergic to data and evidence-based decision-making. It does not seem to want to have that kind of information get in the way of its own agenda.
I want to spend a bit of time expressing my particular support for recommendation 9 of this report, which states:
That the federal government collect data on unpaid internships in Canada and work with the provinces and territories to ensure the appropriate protections under relevant labour codes. Moreover, the government should study the impacts of unpaid internships.
I grew up in England, and in school we were encouraged to volunteer and get involved in the community. I was involved with Meals on Wheels. I would read at a local hospital. I got involved with the Duke of Edinburgh program. I did a variety of volunteer work, but that was on the side. Surely we should not tell young people, who have finished their university and have huge debt loads, that they need about a year's worth of experience and they should work for nothing for a year somewhere. We really have to pay attention. I do not think we have enough data to even begin to understand how serious this situation is, so data collection becomes important.
Logic alone suggests that if people are doing jobs and not being paid for them, they are not going to have money. If they are devoting their time to unpaid internships in the hopes of gaining experience that would lead to eventual employment, they do not also have time to work interim jobs to earn meagre salaries, even enough to pay the interest on their student loans. This is the conundrum for many young people right now.
However, without data, we are unable to assess just how bad the situation is. We can merely speculate and go to the stories we hear, but speculation does not good policy make. Nor does guesswork. Furthermore, we need to find out what is actually resulting from unpaid internships. Are youth ultimately gaining? Are our youth being exploited? Do they work the year and then the employer looks for another freebie for a year? All that information needs to be gathered.
In order to work effectively at the federal level and with the provinces to remedy this problem, we need to know the exact size of the problem so we can deduce the size of the solution needed. Make no mistake that I and my NDP colleagues agree that there are good internship programs associated with academic institutions and that help young Canadians benefit from a first work experience. We have many co-op programs and ones that will be relevant to and even improve their career prospect as another part of their learning package. However, the increasingly frequent use of unpaid internships by employers also poses a particular challenge for young Canadians, and it is the data associated with that challenge that we desperately need to analyze.
Unfortunately, some employers do not use unpaid internships as a prerequisite to employment and as a way to fill positions that would otherwise be paid, so for them it is just a revolving door. Unpaid internships do not necessarily lead to the acquisition of relevant experience for the career of a young worker. Sometimes what interns end up doing has very little to do with their expertise or with their background. Amendments to the Canada Labour Code could ensure better working conditions for our young people and protect them from exploitation.
Next I want to emphasize the importance of recommendation 16 of the report, which states, “That the federal government explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as”, and the NDP has been suggesting this, “tax credits for businesses that hire Canadians aged 18 to 30.” That is a positive step the government could take tomorrow. The Conservatives are really fond of making announcements in all kinds of locations. Here is one they should make, and they should stand here and make it today or make it tomorrow. This would actually benefit our youth.
A youth hiring tax credit is a practical step to creating new jobs for young people. I have spoken to business people in Surrey and to the Surrey Board of Trade, and they agree that kind of policy is a win-win. The New Democrats have proposed a $1,000 incentive that would be available to businesses that hire young Canadians aged 18 to 25. That credit would double in areas of dire unemployment. Businesses would also be able to access matching federal funds to help train newly hired employees.
The time is now. Let us do this and show today's young people that we are paying attention and that we are not leaving them behind. By ignoring youth unemployment, or only paying lip service to it, the government is actually threatening Canada's long-term economic prosperity.
Members may be aware that Germany just announced a few months ago that all post-secondary education fees in Germany would now be waived. No matter what post-secondary program people take, there are no fees in Germany. The Germans are not just doing it because they woke up one day and said they needed a new announcement. They did their research. They looked at how much common sense it made to do that, and how investment in their youth was really about the future and that their country was willing to make those sacrifices. They like it and they can see the economic and social benefits.
If the Canadian government does not act now, we risk becoming the first generation in history to leave less to our children than we inherited from our parents. As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot say how much that breaks my heart. I always tell people that I do what I do because I want a better world for my grandchildren, the students I have taught over the years and all young people in our country. I want to give them that promise of hope and of engagement, but right now many youth are feeling disenchantment.
Canadians deserve better. Canadians deserve smart investment in today's youth and tomorrow's economy. The New Democrats recognize that smaller enterprises are the job creating backbone of Canada's economy. In that vein, we launched a Canada-wide campaign to engage small businesses. We are talking to business owners about practical ideas to help them expand, and the feedback we are getting is very positive.
I would be remiss not to discuss the fact that youth with disabilities face particular challenges in the labour market. They face a more difficult transition from school to work, reduced support services to meet their individual needs, job opportunities and ignorance of their actual capabilities. Youth with disabilities are more educated than ever. However, as indicated by one witness, the employment rate of youth with disabilities in Canada was 45.7% in 2011.
When I learned that, I was shocked. The government must take action immediately to enable young people with disabilities to benefit from better opportunities to enter the labour market permanently.
Last and very dear to my heart, is that I recently have learned that 60% of students will postpone buying a house because of their debt and 40% will postpone their plan to start a family. This highlights another issue of pressing importance for young professionals, the work-family balance.
With that, I will state again in the House, and as many times I am able, that a national child care system is vital for women to enter the labour force when their children are younger. When a woman first starts out in the labour force, in the 25- to 29-year old range, the gap is not very large. It is after a few years when they have had to take leave to care for young children that the gap grows. Women hit that glass ceiling, but they also hit many other barriers and end up having to make very difficult choices, choices that not only impact their career aspirations but also impact the economic base for families.
Improving our child care system is fundamental to improving employment opportunities for both men and women. If we are to tackle poverty in a serious way and tackle the growing gap between the rich and poor, one of the key pillars in that platform to do that is a universal, accessible, affordable, regulated child care system. That is what the NDP stands for.
We are talking about youth unemployment. Recently, when I was at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I met with a group of students. They told me that their challenges were the high costs. Education is incredibly expensive these days, but they are willing to take on that burden. The difficulty is that once they leave those institutions, it is going to be between one to seven years before they can get a full-time job in the field in which they have qualified. That just does not seem right. This is the kind of thing we need to address.
I talk to my constituents in Newton—North Delta all the time. Of the three top issues, education and young unemployment are an integral part. Honestly, the lack of a national child care system in Canada right now is a marked failure. We need affordable, accessible, safe child care in our country, and we need it now.
The has said that we are only one election away from having child care that will be no more than $15 a day per child. That is music to the ears of people from coast to coast to coast.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to speak to this report today. I thank my colleagues for their good work and I look forward to seeing these recommendations come to fruition.
I would like to end with an appeal. Words on paper are meaningless. Let us have action.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand here and talk to this very important issue of youth unemployment and the important report that was put forward by the Standing Committee on Finance with a number of recommendations.
First of all, we need to put this into a framework of what the government has been doing and the very important work that we have been moving forward with.
I have three children in their twenties, and I remember that back in the nineties when they were quite young I used to think that the baby boomers were all going to retire, so that when my children finished university, finished whatever path they had chosen in their life, the world was going to be their oyster and that they would have many opportunities and, indeed, that there would be a shortage. That has not happened. We know there are some challenges for youth and we know our unemployment rate is higher than we would like it to be.
The government understands that it is important that we create the right environment for the economy to thrive, that we create the right environment for the job creators of this country to be successful and to create those jobs. It is ironic that the NDP members like to talk about their great concern about this issue, but every single measure, everything we do to support the job creators in this country, they tend to vote against.
For example, as we look at lowering the tax rates for our corporations, it is important to recognize that lower tax rates encourage growth. Money is international these days, there is international mobility, and we are encouraging job creators, groups like Tim Hortons, to come back to Canada.
First of all we need to look at the policies that we have in place, including around natural resources. Here again I would have to look at the New Democrats because I do not think there is a natural resource project that I have heard them support yet, especially for our aboriginal peoples. In Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, we have a mine that opened call New Gold, and as part of that mine opening, there were some job agreements created with the local bands that allowed for employment opportunities for their youth.
It is important that we have policies in place that support the job creators, whether regarding corporate tax rates or, more importantly, resource development policies whereby we get to a yes or no, so that companies will not have to spend 6, 8,15, 30 years before they get an answer about what are to be doing. That is one thing that we have focused on.
The government has played a role in terms of some of the more direct supports that we have put in place for aboriginal youth, youth with disabilities, youth in general. Here I would like to spend time talking about the different programs that are in place. Again, this means significant dollars. It is also important to recognize that the provinces and municipalities are our partners in these issues. We work in partnership with provinces and municipalities.
As for some of the important programs in place, we have to start when young. Some of the first work experiences youth have are as high school students. Maybe a first job is supported through our Canada summer student job program. It might be working in a camp, or with an engineering company, or many of those jobs. In the riding I represent, there is over $450,000 that goes into providing that experience for youth, often their first experience in the workforce. We have programs related to paid internships.
Again, we have a company that is thinking of the need to expand the number of people it has. With respect to those entry-level jobs, creating those positions and those paid internship is a hugely successful program that encourages our businesses to hire youth.
Some of the more powerful programs I have seen are through our skills link and opportunities programs. Sometimes we have youth who experience specific challenges in their lives. I will again use Kamloops as an example; however, in the 308 ridings across the country, there are many similar groups in place. In one case we have a program that is giving funding to support a group called ASK Wellness Society. It has people who have perhaps had issues with drug or alcohol addiction and have had a few challenges in their life, but who have decided to turn their life around. We know that part of supporting people in turning their lives around is to provide meaningful support and opportunities for jobs.
I can remember going to a particular announcement where we talked about the ongoing support for some of these programs, and the story of the youth who stood up. He talked about the bad path he had taken in his life, about getting clean in terms of his drug and alcohol addictions, and about the support he had in terms of the basic skills he would need to be successful in his future. He had that support, from federal government funding delivered through an agency in town, and was now gainfully and happily employed. He was pleased and very happy about the change he had made in his life. More importantly, he did not feel he could have done it without the support of the program that was available to him.
We also recognize that our aboriginal youth have an unemployment rate that is of particular concern. There is support for aboriginal youth, and also programs like the ASETS program, which not only provides aboriginal youth with some pre-employment skills but actual skills training.
Our human resources, skills and development committee had the opportunity to not only look at ASETS, but the strategic partnerships fund, which is where industry works with the communities and community groups to create jobs. It is an important opportunity for supporting aboriginal youth and the extraordinarily high unemployment rate there.
The last thing I want to reflect on that has been part of an ongoing dialogue in the House, and although not directly related to youth unemployment there is a link, is support for child care. I have said this before, and I will say it again. I will use the example of someone from a rural community, someone who has to work nights, maybe a young mother who is 17 or 19 and needs someone at home. To be frank, the child care spaces proposed by the NDP would not do her any good if she goes to work for a 7 p.m. to midnight shift. Those spaces are not available, though they might be great for a nine to five shift. I understand that recent research has shown that people with higher incomes tend to take more advantage of those low-cost daycare spots. We would put that money in her pocket, so that if she needs to hire a babysitter or an aunt to come to the house, she would have that flexibility.
The last point I would like to focus on is what we hear about the extraordinarily high costs of child care. However, what the NDP are neglecting to say is that every province in this country provides support for low-income parents. With the supported child care program, sometimes the parents are paying nothing. If they are on a low income or are a single mom, they might be on a program delivered through the provinces where their child care cost is appropriately subsidized.
This conversation has been a little misleading, first in the fact that there is some important support available for those on a low income. More importantly, the jobs that our youth have, and perhaps single mothers, are not necessarily Monday to Friday and nine to five. Our plan is going to provide the parent of a young child with $1,900 a month. In addition to that, we have to remember that they have support from a number of different sources. It will allow them to enter the market more viably.
In conclusion, we all agree that the youth unemployment rate is an issue. It is an issue that we need to be concerned about. We need to find important ways to match opportunities to the interests of our youth, and we need to create an environment, both for corporations to be successful and to give youth the skills through the important programs that I have already mentioned. Whether it is the Canada summer student job program, youth opportunities, or disabilities, we have many programs in place, and we will continue to ensure that we have an important focus on this area.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to participate in today's debate about the report of the Standing Committee on Finance entitled “Youth Employment in Canada: Challenges and Potential Solutions”.
I am very concerned about youth unemployment, and I will talk later about my bill, Bill . I have worked extremely hard on this file with my colleague from . We have also considered the issue of unpaid internships and the best ways to protect unpaid interns.
Youth unemployment is a serious concern. We know that the youth unemployment rate in Canada is almost double the national unemployment rate.
According to the committee's report, witnesses said that young Canadians are still feeling the effects of the economic crisis.
Although job growth has been too weak across the board to recover the jobs lost during the crisis, young people have been particularly hard hit. More than 455,000 jobs for people under the age of 25 have been lost since the recession, and the youth unemployment rate remains stuck at double the rate for the population aged 25 and over.
Furthermore, if we look at the figures for young Canadians who are underemployed—meaning that they cannot find full-time jobs in their sector—we can see that one out of three young Canadians is underemployed. I find that figure extremely worrisome.
In light of the current climate, I introduced Bill to protect unpaid interns in Canada. I worked on this bill with the family of a former intern, Andy Ferguson. He was an intern at a radio station in Edmonton, Alberta. After working 16 hours straight, he unfortunately fell asleep at the wheel while driving home and was involved in a fatal accident.
He did not have the benefit of federal protections. Interns working in areas under federal jurisdiction, including the telecommunications sector, in which Andy Ferguson worked, the transportation sector and the banking sector, have no protection.
There is nothing in Canadian law to protect the health and safety of these interns. That is very disturbing. Andy Ferguson's case sparked a national debate.
We have seen other cases across the country in which unpaid interns have been abused. For example, Jainna Patel was an unpaid intern in Toronto with Bell, a very profitable company that makes a lot of money. This unpaid internship program was shut down a few months ago. However, Jainna Patel says that she did the same kind of work as paid employees, but she did not receive any compensation.
This is part of a disturbing trend in which employers transform paid jobs into unpaid internships. We think that this is an abuse of the concept or the very idea of unpaid internships.
This spring, I introduced Bill , which has two parts. Unpaid interns are in a grey area and get no protection. Bill would ensure that unpaid interns working for employers under federal jurisdiction get a certain level of protection. For example, my bill will give interns the right to refuse dangerous work and protect them from sexual harassment. Harassment cases have surfaced recently in various workplaces, including in the telecommunications sector. The first part of my bill is designed to protect interns.
The second part is designed to prevent employers from converting paid positions into unpaid internships. Canadian employers need to understand that unpaid internships are not a source of cheap labour. Unpaid interns must not be exploited. If interns are doing the same work as paid employees, employers must pay them. My bill stipulates that internships must benefit interns first and foremost. We have to put a stop to the abuse of unpaid interns in Canada, and I think my bill is a good place to start.
This is also about gender inequality, as several witnesses pointed out in committee. Internships tend to be in female-dominated fields. Witnesses from the Canadian Intern Association and the University of Toronto Students' Union told us that unpaid internships are most popular in journalism, nutrition, social work, marketing, public relations and fashion. We have to improve conditions for all workers in the labour market, but it is important to note that women are affected more than men.
According to recent studies, especially one out of the University of Victoria, unpaid interns are no more likely to get a paid job after their internship. Most unpaid interns did not get a job offer after completing an unpaid internship. The Governor of the Bank of Canada claimed otherwise, but he is quite wrong. It is simply not true that unpaid internships increase young people's chances of getting a paid job. The real problem is that those jobs do not exist. The Conservative government has not managed to create jobs for young people. We should start by taking a closer look at that problem.
At a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, I had the great pleasure of asking Claire Seaborn, a representative of the Canadian Intern Association, some questions. Many of her recommendations were quite relevant and very interesting. Since I only have a minute left, I would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the recommendations of that report, specifically recommendation 9, which calls on the federal government to collect data on unpaid internships in Canada. A number of witnesses pointed out that Statistics Canada has no data on the number of unpaid interns in Canada. We need to have this information if we really want to tackle the problem.
Furthermore, recommendation 10 calls on the federal government to continue to invest in internships, especially in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That is an excellent recommendation.
The final recommendation I would like to highlight is recommendation 16, which calls on the federal government to explore ways to promote youth hiring in Canada, such as tax credits for businesses, for instance, which was an NDP proposal.
I look forward to questions and comments from my colleagues.