Several community groups in Niagara West-Glanbrook learned last week that they will not be receiving funding under the repackaged Summer Jobs Program. The Summer Career Placement Program was put in place in the mid-nineties to help students throughout Canada obtain work to pay their way through university or college. The program was vital to many not-for-profit groups who were able to run special summer programs or get some extra assistance from a student during the summer months.
In September 2006, the Conservative government slashed $55 million in funding from the Summer Career Placement Program. Then they re-named it the Canada Summer Jobs Program, changed the policy criteria, but maintained the millions in cuts. Now community groups in our riding who traditionally receive funding to hire students are being told that under the new narrow criteria they are being left out, causing some to wonder if they can continue to offer summer employment. In many cases, it is small, not-for-profit agencies that are being turned down for grants, depriving their clients of the good work usually done by students.
Last week, we learned summer camps for autistic children were denied funding, thanks to the Harper government cuts. Thankfully, the provincial government stepped in to provide funding for the award-winning camps for autistic and low-income children.
The Conservatives claim that this cut was targeted at large corporations, which they claim do not need help to hire a student. But hundreds of organizations, not for profits, and community groups are being told they no longer qualify for summer job funding. Regardless of the type of organization applying for funding, this program is a win-win in so many ways. Not only do the employer and student win, but sectors like tourism are helped. In my view, most important is the role this program has played in providing opportunities for our young people here in Niagara. We know that most of our young people exit Niagara after obtaining their education. The Summer Carer Placement Program gave students the opportunity to work in Niagara. Some of those jobs turn into full-time positions. We are anticipating a tremendous labour market shortage in Niagara and this program helped.
If the Conservatives are serious about helping students find employment, they will restore the funding they cut. Re-branding the program will accomplish nothing and generate fewer jobs. All organizations – including small business, should have access to this program that, for 13 years under the Liberal government, worked very well.