Ottawa boosts aid package to students, pledges incentives to find work
April 30, 2020
The federal government has bolstered a $9-billion aid package for students to ensure speedy passage through the House of Commons, committing more money for those with disabilities and children and agreeing to provide extra incentives to take on available jobs.
Liberal MPs agreed to the changes to secure all-party support Wednesday for legislation to enact measures to help students through monthly payments, enhanced grants and cash incentives to volunteer.
MPs also called on the government to urgently provide additional support for seniors and people with disabilities to offset “extraordinary expenses” incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measures offer a variety of measures for students who face bleak job prospects this summer. Even though politicians are considering loosening the restrictions that have shuttered traditional centres of student employment, such as hospitality and retail businesses, the job possibilities for students remain uncertain.
“Young people are facing a serious set of challenges in this difficult time, be it interrupted studies, reduced work opportunities or disruptions to their co-ops or internships,” said Carla Qualtrough, the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.
“Many post-secondary students in Canada are wondering how they’re going to be able to pay their tuition fees, their groceries and their rent if they cannot find a summer job,” she told the Commons.
Under the program, post-secondary students, recent graduates and those headed to school in the fall are eligible to get monthly payments of $1,250 a month between May and August. It also promises up to $5,000 for students who volunteer.
The New Democrats had pressed the government to boost the monthly payments to students who have dependants and those with disabilities, calling it a “grave injustice” that they would get less than the $2,000 a month offered by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
“They want to give less to a student who is a mother. This is not right,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said before debate began.
The government agreed to increase the monthly payments to those with dependants and disabilities by $250 to $2,000 a month.
Another hang-up was the concern that monthly payments to students might take away their incentive to work.
As part of the vote securing the speedy passage of the legislation, the government agreed to ensure its benefits “are offered in a manner that meets their objective while encouraging employment.”
The government agreed to implement new financial incentives and measures to “connect Canadians, particularly students and Canadian youth, to the various jobs available.”
The Conservatives want to see new program that would match unemployed student with jobs, notably in the agriculture and agri-food sector. “Employers need the labour and students can have that availability,” said Conservative MP Colin Carrie (Oshawa).
Qualtrough endorsed the idea, saying the government would support any measures that help students find work.
Yet NDP MP Charlie Angus took issue with what he said was the implied suggestion that students, many with debts, “are going to take the summer and hang out and goof around.”
“I’m very concerned about this coded language about making sure they are incentivized to go work. They want to work. They have been stopped from working,” Angus said.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the debate seemed divided between those who think that students “absolutely” need help and those who think they “will suddenly become lazy and start smoking pot in their basement.
“They’re happy to work, these students,” he said, adding that the funding will help ensure they continue at school.
“We can’t adopt a position where students are in greater debt for their upcoming school year.”