Gwyn Morgan: Ill-conceived WE program wasn’t even needed in the first place

Financial Post
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The prime minister said it was needed so students would have summer jobs. But students aren’t taking jobs that already exist

By Gwyn Morgan

Conflict of interest revelations surrounding the selection of WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant have dominated media coverage and led to investigations by parliamentary committees and the federal Ethics Commissioner. While getting answers on how WE was selected is essential, there’s been scant focus on the more fundamental question: why was this program — which the federal government has said has a budget of up to $912 million, of which WE was to be paid $43.53 million to distribute $500 million in grants — conceived in the first place?

The prime minister said it was needed so students would have summer jobs. But students aren’t taking jobs that already exist. A prime example is agriculture. Because of COVID-19, farmers have faced delays in getting temporary foreign workers, leaving crops spoiling in their fields. Many students that farmers did manage to attract either failed to show up or quit after deciding the work was too hard, a phenomenon that reflects our coddled Generation Z’s aversion to physical labour.

Examining the support already available to post-secondary students makes it even clearer why many opted out of available jobs. The Canada Student Grant, a non-repayable program for lower-income students, has been doubled from $3,000 to $6,000. The Canada Student Loans’ weekly maximum limit has been raised from $210 to $350 and the requirement for students to contribute any portion of their educational costs has been waived. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit provides up to $1,250 every four weeks from May through August for students who claim they’ve looked for work but haven’t been successful. Both colleges and universities are increasing bursaries for students in financial need, while scholarships are available for high-performing students regardless of need. Finally, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) pays $2,000 every four weeks to students who have earned at least $5,000 over the past 12 months.

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Source: Gwyn Morgan | Financial Post

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