May 7, 2014 4:33 pm

Ontario election: Asking the leaders about youth unemployment and jobs

Employment increases in April as Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate hits lowest level since 1976.

Nati Harnik / AP Photo

TORONTO – You asked, they answered.

Al from Toronto wanted to know what the various party leaders will do to get Ontario’s young people into work: The youth unemployment rate remains stubbornly high and well above the provincial average.

Here’s what they said:

Kathleen Wynne (Liberal): “I want Al to know that we have got a youth jobs strategy that is already provided 11,000 jobs for young people, so we’re very actively on that, and we’ll continue to provide those jobs for young people.”

Andrea Horwath (NDP): “I think it’s important to acknowledge that it was New Democrats that pushed the Liberals to actually put some plan in place to get some youth jobs and we’re pleased that they started down that road but there’s certainly a lot more that needs to be done. We believe that a tax credit is something that will help us partner with business but when they create the job, so you create a job, you get a tax credit, you invest in Ontario, you get a tax credit.”

Tim Hudak (PC): “Between now and election day on June 12, I’m going to lay out in great detail how we’re going to grow the economy, how we’re going to make sure that entrepreneurs see Ontario as the best place to start a new business.”

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Have a question for the leaders? Ask it here

The goods: Wynne’s right – but so is Horwath, whose demand last year resulted in the inclusion of a $300 million youth jobs strategy in the 2013 budget.

That included a $195 million fund subsidizing wages for employers who hire youth for at least six months and another $100 million to be split among three other funds – two to support young entrepreneurs and another to train young people.

Is it working? Statistics Canada pegged the youth unemployment rate of Ontario’s 15- to 24-year-olds at 18.9 per cent when last year’s budget was released. At the time, 65.4 per cent of young people were working or looking for work.

Now, the youth unemployment rate is 15 per cent. But fewer of them -57.1 per cent –are participating in the labour market.

Also worth noting: Of the three, the Liberals are the only one with a youth-specific employment plan: Horwath’s tax credit, which also featured in her 2011 campaign, would apply to all businesses and all employees, regardless of age; Hudak’s across-the-board tax cuts would be just that.

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