Trudeau marks 100 days as PM with big boost to Canada Summer Jobs program

TORONTO – Justin Trudeau marked his 100th day in office Friday with news of a big-ticket boost to a program that helps students get summer jobs, spending the prime minister billed as an investment in Canada’s flagging economy.

Trudeau announced plans to double the resources behind Canada Summer Jobs Program during a visit to Toronto’s Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club.

The federal government spent $106 million on the program last year to help create more than 34,000 summer jobs. New funding of up to $113 million each year for the next three years will allow the program to offer nearly 70,000 summer jobs to students from now until 2018.

“Not only is this good for them, it’s good for the broader economy, now and in the years to come,” Trudeau said.

“Yes we’re building a stronger future for them, but we’re also building a stronger present for everyone that they work for and touch with their experiences and hard work. That’s why investing in young people is so important.”

Summer jobs, Trudeau noted, help youth get the experience they need to start their careers, pay for ongoing education, and build self-reliance.

“The needs that our young people are facing in terms of unemployment, in terms of the need to develop work experience, the need to get good summer jobs is massive right now,” he said. “We needed to take seriously our responsibility to give young people the tools and the capacity to succeed.”

At least one economist said Trudeau’s announcement is one more likely to yield economic benefits down the road rather than any time soon.

“In terms of providing greater financial support for students, I would argue that yes, it’s a good thing in the longer run. But … will it help to prop the economy up this year? I wouldn’t think so,” said David Madani, senior Canadian economist with Capital Economics.

“I think this is another example, a much smaller example, but it fits in within the theme that the government is trying to think about ways in which it can support the longer term economic outlook.”

Under the Canada Summer Jobs program, the government subsidizes summer wages paid to young people between the ages of 15 and 30, who were full-time students during the past academic year and intend to return to school full-time in the coming academic year.

The subsidy, based on minimum provincial wage rates, ranges from 100 per cent for not-for-profit sector employers to 50 per cent for public sector employers and for private sector employers who employ no more than 50 employees.

The program is aimed at providing much-needed work experience for students while supporting small businesses and organizations that provide important community services.

Trudeau noted, however, that the boost to the program was not his government’s only planned efforts to help youth.

“How we’re investing in young people will be even more apparent in the budget as we look at ensuring access to post-secondary education, as we look at improving job and skills training for young people just out of school. There are many, many initiatives our government is examining for young people out of school,” he said.

The Canada Summer Jobs program is one of three that fall under the umbrella of the federal youth employment strategy.

During last year’s election campaign, Trudeau promised to pump an additional $300 million into the strategy over three years, creating 40,000 youth jobs. After that initial boost, he vowed to boost the youth employment strategy’s budget to $385 million annually, a $50 million hike over the current outlay.

Trudeau underscored the importance he places on job creation for young Canadians when he crafted his first cabinet in November, reserving the youth portfolio for himself.

The Liberals’ come-from-behind victory in the Oct. 19 election has been attributed in large part to Trudeau’s ability to engage Canadians who don’t traditionally vote, including youth and indigenous people.

Some 3 million new voters cast ballots, propelling voter turnout to 68 per cent — its highest level in more than 20 years.

— with files from Joan Bryden in Ottawa