Wearing brand new budget shoes, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced Economic Action Plan 2013 on Mar. 21. Titled “Jobs, Growth, and Economic Prosperity,” the budget introduces market-oriented skills training, job creation measures, and aims to balance the books by 2015.
However, the opposition is not optimistic that the Tories can keep their budget promises. “These predictions are wrong,” Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party, says. “That’s what we’ve constantly seen.”
Bob Rae, interim-leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, also disliked the budget, calling it “the same old propaganda. It has very unlikely targets as to where the revenue picture is going to go over the next couple of years,” Rae says. “It’s a rhetorical document, it’s an excursive of political relic.”
One of the main features of the budget is the Canada Jobs Grant. The program would provide job seekers with $5 thousand for skills training, which the federal government hopes would be matched by an additional $10 thousand from provincial governments and employers.
The grant will create opportunities for apprentices and provide support to underrepresented groups, such as youth and aboriginals, to help them find employment.
However, Rae said the government could do more for the unemployed Canadians. “There’s no new money, it’s money that’s going to be delayed for several years, it’s money that now requires an equal amount from provinces and employers,” he says. “It’s actually a whole lot less when you consider the size and extent of employment.”
Businesses who can provide skills training—such as community and career colleges—will be eligible to receive up to $5 thousand per person of that grant. The businesses’ and provinces’ contributions will have to match the federal government. The program will be finalized after renewal negotiations of the Labour Market Development Agreements in 2014–15 with the provinces and territories.
Flaherty said he can’t guarantee all provinces will sign off on the grant, but remains optimistic about the plan. “[The Conservatives] listen to businesses and persons who are unemployed,” Flaherty says. “We have a problem and we have to fix it. I think the provincial governments will listen to…employers.”
Adam Awad, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said while the grant is a step in the right direction it’s not enough for students. He was disappointed with the budget and felt like the government could do more to address the student issues.
“It’s definitely disappointing; it doesn’t do much for students at all,” Awad says. “It doesn’t address the main issues of debt and access to education. Canadian businesses are…failing to provide this training regardless; it’s not the government’s responsibility to pay businesses to do their own job. It would have been much better to provide that funding directly into the education system.”
In addition to the Canada Jobs Grant, the government announced promotion of education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and skilled trades, all of which are considered high-demand.
As a part of the grant, $19 million over two years will be reallocated to informing youth about those fields of study and the career opportunities stemming from them. The budget does not provide details of where the funding will be reallocated from.
A total of $70 million over three years will be invested in 5000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates. They will be added on to the 3000 internships already created with the Economic Action plan 2012.
The Canadian Youth Business foundation will receive $18 million over two years if the foundation can raise $15 million to match the federal funding. The non-profit organization works with young entrepreneurs to develop their business by providing mentorship, advice, and other resources. The government hopes this will help the foundation become self-sustainable.
Awad said the funds to help youth gain employment are not “addressing the main concern.”
The government has also allocated money for research which will involve undergraduate students. Research funding will see $37 million per year to support partnerships with industry though the granting councils, including an additional $12 million annually for the College and Community Innovation program (CCIP). The CCIP supports collaboration between colleges and industry on research projects.
The granting councils will expand eligibility for their undergraduate and industrial internships and scholarships to students who are enrolled in college bachelor programs.
Awad added the primary issue is student debt as student are “unable to take risks” once they graduate because of the money they owe. “While the money for the apprenticeship programs and grants are better than nothing, its nowhere near what needs to happen,” Awad says.