Alberta shortchanged yet again with summer job program

Those who argue that the Canadian federation exhibits plenty of fiscal and program biases against Prairie Canadians will likely see further evidence to that effect, with the most recent study published by the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

The study, Rethinking Student Job Subsidies, authored by David Murrell and Alan Chan, is subtitled The case for Regional Equity in the Canada Summer Jobs Program.

The study analyzes Statistics Canada data for Ottawa’s summer jobs program between 2016 and 2018. This is the same program that recently became infamous when the federal government used it to push its moralistic values on abortion.

The original program was designed to encourage businesses and community organizations into hiring young people, full-time students in high school or university, aged 15 to 30, so that they may acquire work experience during the summer as they move toward joining the active workforce in the near future.

The authors found that in this period between 2016 and 2018, essentially, the first three years of the current government, the Prairie provinces received significantly less money per unemployed student than the national average.

While the dollar amounts with the summer student subsidies pale in comparison to the massively lopsided federal EI transfers and equalization payments, by and large, they seem to reinforce the path of inequity much travelled by Prairie wealth, through Ottawa, and toward Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Atlantic students receive, the analysis reveals, robust job subsidies above the national average, while the three Prairie provinces and Ontario receive job support well below the average.

In addition, the province that receives the most per-unemployed student support is an Atlantic province, Newfoundland and Labrador.

The province that receives the least per unemployed student is a Prairie province, Alberta.

The magnitude of the disparity is a bit shocking: Alberta received five times (500 per cent) less than Newfoundland and Labrador, and three times (300 per cent) less than each of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

Even within the Atlantic region, the disparity between Newfoundland and Labrador and the province that received the least (Nova Scotia), is noticeably large: a student in Newfoundland received twice (200 per cent) what a Nova Scotia student received.

The authors found that there does not seem to be a link between the local circumstances in the local economy, student unemployment, and the level of subsidies handed out.

Although local federal politicians are involved in the assessment of applicants by constituency, and there is a well-spelled out process with criteria that in theory seems to want to avert whimsical decisions, the outcomes that point in a different direction are the more puzzling when one considers that “Employment Canada has the final say as to which applicants receive money.”

The criteria, if followed, awards points for “community needs, regional economic priorities, relevance of work, salary levels, employer supervision, treatment of official-language minorities, and affirmative action.”

That the points are assigned (or weighed) according to local priorities as determined by local MPs should introduce a measure of equity, one would think. But something else seems to drive the question of allocating the disparate compensation.

The authors of the study are careful not to speculate as to the motivations that drive the significant disparities. But the anemic outcome for Alberta uncovered in the study may well be driven by the reality that Alberta’s economic priorities do not quite square, to put it in mild terms, with those of the current federal government when it comes to the crucial question of hydrocarbon energy and all that is related to it: from exploration to exploitation, from transformation to transportation.

The authors, however, are quite aware that to any neutral observer, the data raises more questions and may become an added piece in the deepening of regional differences – differences often predicated through federal programs, which has an impact on perceptions and realities about national unity.

Specifically, the authors mention the added disparities in EI benefits and equalization payments, both of which have largely benefitted the Maritime provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador does not currently receive equalization) in the East and substantively extract money from the three western-most provinces.

While Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan also receive less than the national average per unemployed student under the summer jobs program, Edmonton should take notice of the magnitude of the subsidy gap visited on Alberta’s young.

And Alberta MPs, whose fingerprints are also on the applications of Alberta students, should be asking the hard questions of Employment Canada and the apparent abysmal outcomes for their constituents.

Marco Navarro-Genie is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and is the former president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Just Posted

Red Deer woman lives 102 years with humour, ‘gentle strength’ — and porridge

Minnie Deibert was surrounded by family and friends at her birthday party Sunday

Boy escapes serious injury after falling from third-storey window

SURREY, B.C. — A little boy is very lucky to have escaped… Continue reading

Harmonic singing for young women will be taught at a fall workshop in Red Deer

The Hearts of Harmony Chorus is presenting the Nov. 16 session

‘Crying out for help:’ Calgary radicalization program evolves to help others

CALGARY — The soft-spoken young man wasn’t being recruited by neo-Nazis or… Continue reading

Victoria pledges to plant 5,000 trees as part of United Nations challenge

Victoria is promising to plant 5,000 trees on public and private land… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday Bower Place Community Association Seniors Card and Coffee party at 1:30… Continue reading

Liberals pitch middle-class savings as second full week of campaign beckons

OTTAWA — The Liberals tried to turn the page on Justin Trudeau’s… Continue reading

Democrats blast latest Trump crisis. But what will they do?

WASHINGTON — A whistleblower’s complaint over President Donald Trump’s interactions with a… Continue reading

Face transplant recipient’s donor face now failing

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A woman who was severely burned in a domestic… Continue reading

Charity boat with 182 migrants waits to dock in Europe

A non-profit-run ship carrying 182 migrants rescued on the Mediterranean Sea sailed… Continue reading

Singh-Trudeau meeting will be private, say Liberals, but no time set yet

OTTAWA — The Liberal Party pledged Saturday to keep private the details… Continue reading

Glen Assoun calls for reform in how Ottawa considers cases of wrongful conviction

HALIFAX — Tethered to an ankle monitor and alone in a British… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Saturday nights $9 million Lotto 649 jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $9 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read