Economists Say Subsidy For Student Jobs Shouldn’t Vary So Greatly Across The Country

HALIFAX – Federal subsidy amounts under the Canada Summer Jobs Program vary greatly by region on a per student basis, finds a study commissioned by think-tank Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

The federal government provides more than $200 million a year in such subsidies, according to the paper titled Rethinking Student Job Subsidies.

Economists Alan Chan and David Murrell, co-authors of the study, argue that while regions with higher student unemployment should get more money overall, the rate of subsidy per student shouldn’t differ so significantly from one province to the next.

Based on data from Statistics Canada and a federal Access to Information request for program outcomes, the authors found that the four Atlantic provinces got more in subsidies per unemployed student than the national average (under $1,000) between 2016 and 2018.

New Brunswick and P.E.I. received approximately double the national average, and Newfoundland and Labrador got more than three times the national average.

Meanwhile, Ontario and the three Prairie Provinces got less than the national average.

“Authors Alan Chan and David Murrell have shown that despite claims of the Canada Summer Jobs program benefiting everyone across the country, there are big gaps in funding depending a student’s province of residence,” said AIMS vice president Alex Whalen in a release. “Their call for readjusting the program in a spirit of regional equity is well taken and should inform changes to its structure.”

The paper said as pressures weigh on national unity based in part on perceived unfairness in the federal transfers system, the Canadian government should adjust the Canada Summer Jobs Program to ensure parity on a per-student basis across the country.

It argues that the change should happen, among other things, because there doesn’t seem to be a relationship between local economic circumstances, or student unemployment, and subsidies.

It also notes that Atlantic Canada, and the Maritimes in particular, should work with Ontario and Western Canada to make sure fiscal transfers are fair. Ending disparities in summer job funding would not only introduce regional equity, but also show the country that Atlantic Canada is willing to co-operate on transfer reform where it’s backed by evidence, the report said.