Our local MP (who has received much criticism for being a ‘part time’ representative) surfaced this week in a bevy of articles by Times & Transcript reporter, Kate Wright, on the subject of the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
Kudos to Ms. Wright for her attempts to wade through a sometimes confusing program change, but we owe it to the constituents of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe to provide them with a summary of the facts on this issue. Unfortunately, our Liberal MP only surfaces when he sees the opportunity to take a partisan shot at the Conservatives.
According to Ms. Wright’s May 15th article, “…Murphy met with Metro residents last week who are concerned about student jobs in the region. …Murphy is expecting backlash from the program changes and is hoping Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg will consider making changes to the program to better reflect the needs of students.”
Oddly enough Human Resources and Social Development Minister, Monte Solberg, published an article in the Times & Transcript on the same day addressing local concerns. Key points of Min. Solberg’s address were that a) not-for profit organizations in NB will benefit from the same $3.7 million dollar level of funding as last year and that b) the summer jobs program was structured to “…ensure students have the opportunity to gather the tools they need prepare them for a career.” Furthermore, he stressed that c) funding was given to companies that “…show they can offer students meaningful and career related work experience,” and that d) “the program helps students who live in areas where there are barriers to finding jobs.” He acknowledged that “It is unfortunate that every year there are always more applications for funding than money available.”
There appears to be some confusion however on the level of funding as Ms. Wright reports, “The $55-million Canada Summer Jobs program replaces the $110-million Summer Career Placement program that the Tories cut last fall.” (May 14) and “The fund has been cut by about half…” (May 15) and “…summer operations may be in jeopardy thanks to cuts to the federal student jobs program.” (May 15) This smells of Liberal spin, whether fed to Ms. Wright or otherwise.
While MP Murphy and his Liberal cronies denounced the “mean spirited, ideological cuts” of the Conservative government, the fact is that some of the “cuts” they were descrying were actually a streamlining of wasteful spending. According to Mr. Solberg’s statement, the government is distributing “$77.6 million dollars in funding…” not $55 million. He gave the same response in the House when questioned about the CSJP stating: “…Canadians want a clean program. We have ensured that the $77.5 million budgeted last year for the not for profit sector is there again this year. On top of that, we offer several million dollars more for public and private small businesses…” He also said, “…we have changed the program and we have improved it. Under the Liberals, they used the plan to fund companies like Wal-Mart, Canada Safeway and Bacardi, very successful international companies that did not need the support of taxpayers. They also used the money to politically reward their friends. We have ended that practice. The culture of entitlement is over. We have preserved all the funding from the not for profit sector.”
While no doubt some money was eliminated, it was done in the spirit of eliminating waste of taxpayers’ dollars. According to Ms. Wright’s May 14th article Michel Caron, director of active employment at HRSD, “…said the department is also focusing on creating jobs that would otherwise not exist. ‘If we subsidize an employer that would create jobs anyway, we’re not creating new jobs - we’re reducing their costs.’” In the same article, Ms. Wright relates that “A spokeswoman from the minister’s office said New Brunswick companies received $3,679,000 in funding… That is the same amount of funding the province received last year.” So to NB in particular, there have been NO CUTS.
Even a May 15th Times & Transcript editorial seems to agree stating: “The idea of directing funds to those who need it most, both students and businesses or community groups makes sense. So does putting a focus on areas that otherwise have few job opportunities for students. And helping community groups and the non-profit sector which give back to society makes sense. The Canadian economy is good and the same level of funding ought not to be necessary. Students must show some initiative… Taxpayers won’t mind saving their dollars if the economy is good enough that the subsidies are not needed - such programs never were intended to be gravy trains for anyone, students or employers…”
So what’s all the big fuss about? The fact is that there’s a new government in town. As Ms. Wright writes on May 14th, “Instead of simply applying for the grant like they’ve done year after year, employers are now judged on 12 different criteria that will decide if they receive funding.” There is now an actual formula whereby applications are evaluated and processed (instead of Liberal grab-bags of cash). There is clearly stated Eligibility Criteria and an Assessment Process outlined on the HRSD website. There is also a statement of the Approval process there: “Based on the assessment process, a list of recommended projects will be created. All assessed projects will be ranked and approvals will be given based on budget allocation levels. All positions will be assessed separately. …This will produce the total score used for ranking your application...” Another part of the website describes the aims of the program, and how priority is given to proposals. A prospective applicant can even ‘self-score’ their application to determine if they can anticipate approval.
Inevitably, there will those who are disappointed by the changes. As the Times & Transcript editorial stated, “…such programs never were intended to be gravy trains for anyone, students or employers.” As Minister Solberg said, “It is unfortunate that every year there are always more applications for funding than money available.” The same level of funding is still there (NO CUTS), but now there is a formula-driven evaluation process that is fair and accountable. While the formula may stand some tweaking down the road, there is no doubt that the Conservatives deserve full marks for instituting accountability into this annual investment of taxpayer dollars.