Liberal Promise For Jobless Youth Wasn't In The Budget

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OTTAWA — A notable Liberal election pledge designed to encourage employers to hire young people failed to make the cut in last week's federal budget.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed during last year's campaign to offer a 12-month holiday on employment insurance premiums to employers who give permanent jobs to people aged 18-24.

The promise, announced in September by Trudeau himself, was supposed to come into force this year and extend through 2017 and 2018 — but it didn't receive a mention in the budget.

During the campaign, Trudeau noted that the Chretien Liberals did something similar in the late 1990s "to tremendously positive effect.''

justin trudeauPrime Minister Justin Trudeau is now the federal minister of youth. (Photo: Flickr)

"We saw the number of young people's jobs spike during those years,'' Trudeau, who is now the federal minister of youth, said during the campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C., with a group of young people behind him.

"That's exactly what we need right now given the extremely high unemployment rates for youth.''

Last month, the country's unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 was 13.3 per cent, compared to 7.3 per cent for people 15 and over.

The pledge would have also provided financial relief for potential bosses by waiving their EI contributions.

The 'one thing' business owners really liked

The Liberals estimated the total savings for employers would have been $80 million this year, $80 million in 2017 and $60 million in 2018.

Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said Tuesday his membership was very supportive of Trudeau's promise to offer EI relief.

"That was one thing that business owners really liked,'' said Kelly, who was also deeply disappointed the Liberals "deferred'' another of their pledges to continue reducing the small business tax rate beyond 2016.

"That was the second element of their platform that we applauded and they scrapped that, too.''

"Not only was that a promise to small business owners ... but it was a promise to young people."

Federation members liked the previous edition of the EI-holiday program in the 1990s, Kelly added.

"Not only was that a promise to small business owners ... but it was a promise to young people,'' he said.

Government officials did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday as to why the policy was absent from the budget or whether it will be introduced in the future.

Trudeau, who participated Tuesday in a roundtable on employment insurance in Calgary, had presented the commitment during the election campaign as a component of the party's broader youth job strategy.

During the campaign, the Liberals had estimated their overall youth job strategy to cost $455 million in both 2016-17 and 2017-18; $435 million in 2018-19; and $125 million in 2019-20.

millennials at workThe Liberals' promise would have given an incentive to employers to give permanent jobs to people aged 18-24. (Photo: Gettystock)

But last week, the Liberal budget earmarked $165.4 million in new funding for youth employment in 2016-2017. The budget said that investment was on top of $339 million already announced, over three years, for the federal summer jobs program.

The government pledged to provide more cash in the coming years for youth employment, with particular emphasis on boosting job opportunities for the most-vulnerable young people.

It also announced it will further explore the issue of youth unemployment by seeking input from a panel of experts and a council of Canadians aged 16 to 24.

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