What a Liberal Majority Means for Young Canadians

What a Liberal Majority Means for Young CanadiansIf you are a young Canadian looking at the current state of the economy and job market, then you may have doubts about your future. Many media outlets would have you believe that it's harder than ever to find a good job if you're young.

But is this really an accurate picture? Is Justin Trudeau's Liberal majority government doing enough to create real optimism and opportunities for Canada's young people?

Read on to find out, or jump to the Liberal Party's platform promises to see if they're being kept.

Young Adults Are a Growing Powerhouse

According to July 2016 estimates, Canadians aged 15 to 24 made up about 12.5 percent of Canada's overall population and over 20 percent of Canada's "working-age" population (15 to 64 years old).* That's substantial. As a collective, young Canadians could have a powerful voice in this country. It's probably a good idea for elected leaders to start paying attention to you. After all, you and your peers are the next generation of workers, consumers, and voters.

Should Youth Unemployment Rates Matter to You?

Since you're a young Canadian facing your future, let's take a look at the economy as it relates to you, specifically in the area of unemployment. A 2014 TD Economics report found that youth unemployment levels are largely tied to the business cycle and the state of the economy.** So should you be worried about youth unemployment rates?

Well, youth unemployment in Canada peaked in July 2009 at a rate of 16.9 percent.** That's pretty high. But that's also a time when the country was coming out of a recession. Fast-forward to March 2017 and the youth unemployment rate dropped down to 12.8 percent, so things have been getting better.* And TD Economics did find that, although the unemployment rate for 15 to 19 year olds has slowly been trending upward over the past four decades, the rate for 20 to 24 year olds has been holding relatively steady.

Post-Secondary Education Can Lead to a Brighter Future

Now it is worth noting that some of the above youth employment trends are partially due to youth leaving the workforce to get a post-secondary education, which is generally seen as positive. After all, employment opportunities and earning potential increase with level of education.** However, for many young Canadians, student debt load also increases with each level of education. Are you starting to feel like you should forget it and go back to your Netflix marathon? Well, don't give up hope just yet.

Post-secondary education isn't a bust. Long-term studies have shown that, overall, post-secondary graduates face better job opportunities and earning potential—as well as lower unemployment rates—than their high-school-educated counterparts.* And a large majority of post-secondary graduates are able to find work once they have completed their schooling. In 2009-10, 90 percent of college graduates, 92 percent of bachelor's and master's degree graduates, and 93 percent of doctoral degree graduates had found work.**

It could easily be argued that getting a post-secondary education is a good thing. And from their report, TD Economics concluded that the overall youth unemployment trends are not as severe as some outlets report. So, is the sky falling? No. Should you be concerned about post-secondary training and job opportunities for your generation? It's probably something that should be on your radar. And this is where the current Liberal government comes into play.

What Has Justin Promised You?

Justin Trudeau Photo by Alex Guibord

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have made large commitments for infrastructure spending. That includes everything from building and improving public transportation systems and roadways to investing in education and healthcare. These commitments alone represent an economic stimulus that could create more job opportunities for all working Canadians. And don't forget the possible creation of an entirely new segment of the economy that would come with the legalization of marijuana. But all of this aside, what promises have the Liberal Party of Canada made that directly affect young adults?

In looking at the Liberal platform, the party has pledged to invest in young Canadians so that they can obtain the knowledge and skills needed to secure good jobs and establish a brighter outlook. Specifically, the Liberals have made commitments that include investing $1.3 billion in youth services and programs.*** That's good news for you.

So let's break down seven of these promises and commitments and look at what they could mean for young adults in Canada. (Note that all references to promises and commitments are sourced from the 2015 Liberal Party of Canada platform.) As of April 2017, some promises have been fulfilled, whereas others have been only partially fulfilled or haven't been kept at all.

1. Changing Student Loan and Grant Funding for Post-Secondary Education

The Details: Here are some of the key details regarding proposed changes to the student loan and grant system:

  • Increasing the income cut-off for Canada Student Grant eligibility so that more students can have access to larger grants.
  • Increasing the maximum amount for the Canada Student Grant for low-income students to $3,000 per year for full-time students and $1,800 per year for part-time students.
  • Increasing the level of non-payable grant assistance to students by $750 million per year until 2019 when it will be increased to $850 million per year.
  • Changing the student loan repayment requirements so that no graduates will be required to start repayment until they are earning an income of at least $25,000 per year. The federal government will pay the loan interest until students hit this income threshold.

What This Could Mean For You: More affordable education with less debt upon graduation.

When it comes to post-secondary education, a key concern for young Canadians is how to pay for it. And this is an important consideration when the reality is that people who require a Canada Student Loan in order to pay for school graduate with an average of $28,000 in debt.****

By creating greater access to post-secondary grants and increasing the amounts received, the government is making it simpler for you to pay for your education and thereby reducing your potential debt load when you graduate. If these platform promises are followed through, it could make it easier for you to commit to completing a college or university program that could benefit you for many years to come.

Update: The Liberals have fulfilled this promise. They've increased the amounts of Canada Student Grants by 50 percent while also easing the rules of the Repayment Assistance Plan. In addition, they plan to add more improvements to student financial assistance in the near future.

2. Increasing Funding and Support for Post-Secondary Education

The Details: Two of the key pieces of this pledge include:

  • Investing $40 million every year toward encouraging employers to create more co-op job placements for students in business, engineering, mathematics, and science programs.
  • Working with provincial and territorial governments and post-secondary institutions to create or expand pre-apprenticeship training programs. This includes providing up to $10 million per year in funding for said programs.

What This Could Mean For You: More student job opportunities and greater access to apprenticeship programs.

Group of students walking on campus
  • Co-op job placements—Many students who are enrolled in two-year or longer college or university programs end up spending their summers working in entry-level hospitality, retail, and tourism positions that have little relevance to their studies. Many times, these jobs are just a means to earn money during the summer. But imagine if you could earn money working in a position that was actually relevant to your studies. That's what could happen if the government invests in co-op job placements for students. It could give you the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in your field while completing your studies, which could help enhance your employment prospects once you graduate.
  • Pre-apprenticeship training programs—These types of programs are offered across Canada, and their aim is to help young Canadians prepare for skilled trades careers. Programs can include necessary upgrading, safety training, work placements, and even the first level of apprenticeship training. Candidates eligible for this type of training include those who left high school early, high school graduates, and unemployed and under-employed young adults. Greater access to pre-apprenticeship programs may be important to you if you want to succeed in a skilled trades career.

Update: So far, this promise hasn't been kept. As of April 2017, the Liberals have committed less than half of the funding that was pledged.

3. Creating Jobs for Young Canadians

The Details: In an effort to boost job opportunities for young adults, the Liberals propose the following:

  • Investing an additional $300 million in the Youth Employment Strategy from 2015 to 2018 in order to create 120,000 youth jobs. (Fifteen thousand of those jobs would be in the green energy sector.)
  • After this initial boost in the Youth Employment Strategy, the annual funding level would be set at $385 million per year, which is a $50-million increase from where it sits currently.
  • Doubling yearly access to the Skills Link program. (Almost 11,000 young Canadians are currently accessing this program.)

What This Could Mean For You: Greater access to job opportunities created for young adults.

The Youth Employment Strategy contains several initiatives including the Skills Link program mentioned above. These programs and initiatives focus on helping young Canadians—especially those facing employment barriers—develop skills and work experience that can help enhance their employability now and in the future.

If you are finding it challenging to secure a position in the workforce, any initiative that's going to create greater access to jobs specifically for youth is positive. And the types of jobs being created are relevant to the needs of today's workforce as well as the future labour market. This can be seen with the commitment to create 15,000 jobs for young Canadians in the green energy sector. In 2015, Canada already had about 18,600 jobs in wind and solar energy.†

Having greater access to training, workplace preparation, and jobs in some of Canada's fastest-growing fields is good news. This is especially true if you are interested in the green energy sector and want to train to become a renewable resource professional (such as a solar energy technician).

Update: As of April 2017, this promise hasn't been fulfilled. In 2016, only 9,000 jobs were created for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24.* That's far short of the 40,000 youth jobs per year that were pledged for the Liberals' first three years in office.

4. Increasing the Number of Jobs Funded by the Canada Summer Jobs Program

The Details: The Liberal government has committed to funding an additional 35,000 jobs each year for the Canada Summer Jobs program.

What This Could Mean For You: More student job opportunities that offer valuable work experience.

The Canada Summer Jobs program is one of the initiatives run under the Youth Employment Strategy as discussed above. The program provides funding to non-profit, public sector, and small business employers who want to create summer jobs for full-time students aged 15 to 30 years old. The jobs created must be full-time, the work experience must be meaningful, and priority may be given to job opportunities that support local and community needs.

Similar to other initiatives addressed previously, increased funding to the Canada Summer Jobs program can provide you with an opportunity to engage in meaningful work during your summer break. Rather than simply earning a paycheque, you could have greater access to jobs that can help you build the workplace skills that many employers desire, which can add to your value in the workforce once you complete your schooling.

Update: The Liberals have followed through with their pledge. They've allocated additional funding to double the number of summer jobs in this popular program.

5. Restoring the Youth Service Program

The Details: The Liberal party pledges to invest $25 million per year for young Canadians to acquire work and life experience while traveling Canada and taking part in community building projects as part of a Youth Service Program.

What This Could Mean For You: Opportunities to explore Canada while gaining work and life experience.

Although no details have been provided as to what this program would look like, Katimavik was the previous Youth Service Program that was in place for almost 25 years until it was cancelled in 2012. With Katimavik, young Canadians aged 17 to 21 spent seven months in three different regions of Canada where they worked on community projects and engaged in other community activities. The intent was to provide opportunities for diverse training and support learning goals focused on the following areas:

  • Cultural exploration
  • Environment
  • Leadership
  • Lifestyle
  • Second language (English or French)

Upon completion of the program, each participant received a $1,000 bursary. A program such as this can help set you up for a successful future both personally and professionally while providing a small amount of funding to assist with paying for an education.

Update: This pledge has been partially fulfilled. As of April 2017, the Liberals have committed to invest $21 million per year in the Youth Service Program until the 2021-22 fiscal year. After that, the funding is set to increase to $25 million per year.

6. Investing in Social Infrastructure

The Details: As part of a larger infrastructure spending pledge, the Liberal government plans to create more affordable housing across the country, specifically rental units for lower-income Canadians.

What This Could Mean For You: Greater access to affordable housing while attending school and finding your place in the workforce.

The Liberal government has made platform promises that can help you pay for post-secondary education, reduce your student loan debt load upon graduation, and enhance your access to the workforce. But along with education and jobs, rental housing is also a growing concern for many young Canadians. And a lack of affordable housing is a key contributor to more young adults living with their parents for longer than previous generations.

The average monthly rental rate in Canada in 2018 was $987 a month. And in major centres like Vancouver, the average was as high as $1,649 a month.‡ With rental rates increasing yearly, it's no surprise that young Canadians are concerned about affordable housing. If the Liberals can keep their pledge to provide affordable rent, it could mean less financial stress and more money in your pocket while you are attending school and trying to get started in the workforce. And maybe you won't have to live with mom and dad until you're 30! (A scary thought, we know.)

Update: In its 2016 budget, the Liberals committed over $2.3 billion to various measures aimed at creating more affordable housing.

7. Reforming Employment Insurance (EI) Rules

The Details: The Liberal party has pledged to make two key reforms to EI rules:

  • For the 2016 to 2018 period, employers' Employment Insurance premiums will be waived for one year when those aged 18 to 24 are hired into a permanent position.
  • Eliminate the Employment Insurance rule that requires new workers and those re-entering the workforce to accumulate 901 hours of work in order to qualify for EI benefits, including training support. (Other workers can currently qualify for benefits with 420 to 700 accumulated hours of work.)

What This Could Mean For You: Potential for more jobs and a better cushion should your employment plans ever fall through.

Reducing the premiums that employers must pay when they hire an employee is another job-creation incentive. By waiving EI premiums for the first year, it could encourage employers to hire for positions that they may have otherwise left unfilled. It also gives businesses the opportunity to train up their new hires so that they are contributing to the company's bottom line before employment premiums kick in.

And the reality of the workforce is that, despite all of your best efforts, there may come a point where you fall on hard times. Wouldn't it be nice to know that you have a bit of a security net should that ever happen to you? Well, that's what the Liberals intend to do by reducing the qualifying hours for EI benefits. As a new worker or a worker who has just re-entered the workforce, it can give you a bit of comfort to know that programs exist to help you supplement your income or receive additional training if you lose your job through no fault of your own.

Update: The Liberals have made various improvements to the EI system that may benefit a lot of students and young workers. However, as of April 2017, they haven't fulfilled the specific pledges described above.

A Commitment to Care for Young Canadians

A Commitment to Care for Young CanadiansJustin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have made substantial commitments to young Canadians like you to help them have greater access to workplace training, post-secondary education, meaningful jobs, and affordable housing. These initiatives could make a real difference in youth unemployment rates and could lead many young adults to a more successful future.

Justin has stated, "We will put the real needs of young Canadians at the heart of what we do."*** Let's hope he holds true to this statement. After all, we are talking about the future of Canada.

* Statistics Canada, website last visited on April 25, 2017.

** TD Economics, Young and Restless: A Look at the State of Youth Employment in Canada, website last visited on November 2, 2015.

*** Liberal Party of Canada, website last visited on November 2, 2015.

**** Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), The Impact of Student Debt, website last visited on November 2, 2015.

† Clean Energy Canada, The Transition Takes Hold: Tracking the Energy Revolution 2017, website last visited on April 24, 2017.

‡ Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), "Rental Market Reports—Canada and Provincial Highlights", website last visited on April 30, 2019.