Students may have a hard time finding a summer job next year since the Conservative government sliced $55 million from the Student Career Placement Program (SCP), eliminating 25,000 job opportunities.
The Human Resources and Skills Development summer employment program is left with less than half of its previous funds to employers since the Federal Treasury Board President John Baird trimmed $1 billion in service cutbacks.
“The Conservative government said that what they were doing in cutting these summer jobs was ‘cutting the fat’ from government,” said New Democratic Party MP Denise Savoie during an interview with The Concordian.
Savoie sits on the human resources and social development committee for the NDP that has been attempting to get the cut reversed since last week’s announcement.
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has been supporting the same cause and spent three days lobbying the government last week.
“University and college is already beyond the means of thousands of Canadian families,” said National CFS Chairperson Amanda Aziz. “Eliminating 25,000 jobs will shut more students out of post-secondary education and condemn thousands more to deeper student debt.”
A 2002 National Graduates Survey conducted by Statistics Canada states that about half of college and undergraduate students leave school owing money for their education, mostly in the form of government loans. The study sampled 60,000 graduates across Canada country who graduated in 2000.
The summer career placement program was created to help students 30 and under to pay for their tuition by offering career-building work experience. The SCP, a partnership between employers and the federal government, subsidizes private, public and non-profit employers to create job opportunities. Last year, the federal government covered the entire salary of students in the program working for a non-profit company.
The SCP creates 45,000 to 50,000 jobs annually. But now, with federal funding cut in half, most of these job opportunities will no longer be available.
In 1996, 1,000 employers and about 700 students took part in a government study which examined the impact of the SCP. This report stated that nearly 70 per cent of all employers surveyed would not have hired a student had the wage subsidy not been available.
“This is a big impact on community groups, a lot of student associations and organizations rely on these funding for summer employment to employ students ,” said Aziz, describing the Treasury Board’s decision as “reckless” since it overlooked any public consultation.
For example, Aziz cited Oxfam-Quebec, a non-profit organization that sends hundreds of workers to third world countries.
The SCP wasn’t the only thing the Conservatives have sliced off the budget since their election. Aziz disclosed the former liberal party’s Bill C-48 had allocated $1.5 billion towards increasing access to post-secondary education. The bill would have reduced tuition fees as well as create grants for university students. The amendment was voted on and passed by Parliament in 2005 and would have taken effect this year. However, Aziz said the Conservatives completely ignored the bill in their budget presented last May.
Last week, the Conservatives made their priorities clear when they allocated $1 billion for universities’ infrastructure and $13.2 billion towards Canada’s national debt. Savoie felt that the federal government is increasingly distancing itself from social programs, triggering a different kind of debt.
“The government’s reluctance and provincialization of education is a worrisome trend,” said Savoie, who stressed the need for national standards.
“What will it mean to be Canadian if students can’t move from one province to another; there are already obstacles in getting credit recognition,” said Savoie. “We should be working to reduce those barriers rather than further ‘balkanize’ our country’s post-secondary education.”
The NDP’s motion to study the impact of the cuts to literacy and summer employment programs under the department of Human Resources and Social Development passed last Tuesday. Beginning next week, the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Social Development will invite Ministers, senior departmental staff, and groups affected by the cuts to appear before the committee and assess their impact.