Canada’s labour minister made a stop in P.E.I. on Wednesday to announce new funding for youth employment programming.
Patty Hajdu announced over $500,000 in funding for the Adventure Group’s employment management program. The funding will help the organization support approximately 70 youth gain job training in industries such as retail, food service, hospitality and aquaculture.
Last July, the Adventure Group received another $305,750 grant from the Status of Women Canada for childcare programming for women working irregular hours.
"This is more than an employability program as we address the deep-rooted issues that are preventing young people with multiple barriers from being gainfully employed," said Adventure Group executive director Roxanne Carter-Thompson.
"These partnerships are vital to these programs."
Hajdu also took questions related to Employment Insurance in P.E.I.
A change to EI rules introduced in 2014 by the Harper government split P.E.I. into two zones. The hours required for workers outside of Charlottetown to be eligible for EI are currently lower than those who live in and around the city. Workers have expressed frustration about the increased difficulty for urban workers to draw EI. During a forum in January, local labour groups pledged to press the issue during the upcoming federal election.
"I know that minister (Jean-Yves) Duclos has committed to doing a review of the entire EI system,” Hajdu said, referring to the federal minister of families, children and social development.
"It will be a priority for our government if they're re-elected in 2019 to have some outcomes as a result of that."
Duclos’ portfolio includes responsibility for Employment Insurance. While she is not directly responsible for EI, Hajdu’s department works closely with that of Duclos, and her department has announced programming related to EI benefits.
“What we're trying to do is to make sure that it's fair, that it's working, that it's reaching its goal, that it's easier to access when people need it. But that work has not concluded as of yet," Hajdu said.
"My understanding is there's no consensus right now in terms of what is the right approach to make sure that people get the supports they need.”
Although all four Island MPs pledged to return the Island to one EI zone prior to the last election, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey has since argued the change would hurt rural P.E.I. Charlottetown MP Sean Casey has said he would prefer one zone.
Hajdu said the federal government has introduced changes to allow workers who choose to return to school after a decade to draw EI while also drawing Canada student loans. But she said the work of her department is currently focused on renewing the federal Youth Employment Strategy, which targets employment training assistance for Canadians aged 15-30.
"We are increasingly focusing on those folks that are having the hardest time finding a job," she said.