Have young Canadians been left behind in Liberals first budget?

As budget analysis comes into focus after an election that gave thousands of young Canadians incentive to vote, the Liberals have already started to back-track and water down some of their key promises. A cynical person might even wonder if they were promises that were never meant to be acted upon. 

For a government run by a Prime Minister who also happens to be the Minister of Youth, the budget seems to put them on the backburner. Most of the funds appear to be concentrated in areas that don’t directly affect them.

Here’s where the government starts back-tracking. What sounds like great news with the Canada Summer Jobs initiative plan to create 35,000 new jobs per year becomes a little less impressive when you consider that the original proposal was set to generate 40,000 positions. What makes this troublesome is that the youth unemployment rate is hovering at 13%, which is almost double the national average. On top of that, only 15% of millennials qualify for Employment Insurance when they lose their jobs, which is especially harsh in a time when they are facing the unfortunate reality of precarious work and temporary employment that dominates this demographic.

In the campaign, the Liberals promised a 12-month exemption from EI premiums to employers who gave permanent jobs to people between the ages of 18 and 24, which would have saved companies as much as $240 million over the next three years. But, this seems to have slipped through the cracks of the new budget – right along with the promise to dedicate $10 million a year to develop and expand apprenticeships. As for the promise of $40 million that was earmarked for co-op placements for science, engineering, math, technology and business students, it was shortchanged by a rather significant $14 million.

During the campaign, the Liberals promised to provide $25 million a year for a youth services program. But, in this budget they indicate they are directing $5 million for the first year of the program towards providing support for communities to help young Canadians gain work and life experience. Funds will increase over the next five years, but the amount promised will only be met after five years, if – and that’s a big if – everything goes as planned.

This government seems to have watered down the very promises they campaigned on and unfortunately, that pretty much means business as usual for First Nation and racialized youth as they continue to be marginalized and experience some of the highest unemployment rates. This deepens cynicism among young people who see their optimism swept aside once the votes have been counted.