Quebec government pledges $45M for youth unemployment, critics call it workfare

Quebec's National Assembly. Jacques Vachon/Global News

QUEBEC CITY – The Quebec government says it is investing $45 million a year for the next three years into the province’s youth employment centres.

In an announcement on Monday, the province said the money is specifically earmarked to help people under the age of 35 and who are on social assistance, find work.

“It’s a nice recognition for the centre,” Mario Côté, director general of a carrefour jeunesse-emploi in Quebec City, said.

The new funding is part of Bill 70, a plan to promote skills training and job entry.

“This agreement will stabilize our services for young people all over Quebec,” said Serge Duclos, Réseau des carrefours jeunesse-emploi du Québec president.

READ MORE: Unemployment, jobs replace health care as top issue for Canadians

However, opponents are calling the bill “workfare” legislation.

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In order to be eligible for social assistance, applicants must meet certain requirements to look for work or attend educational courses.

If not, they could have their welfare funding cut.

“Six-hundred-twenty-three dollars a month – sincerely – you can’t cut this revenue. It’s impossible – how can people live?” said Françoise David, leader of Québec Solidaire.

David is part of a coalition opposed to the bill that includes official opposition party, the Parti Québécois, and a number of unions.

They say the government is trying to shift the focus to helping young people away from what’s problematic about the legislation.

The minister, however, defended the plan.

“There is a lot of misunderstandings about Bill 70,” said François Blais, minister of employment and social solidarity.

“What is important to understand is the bill will open new possibilities for young people.”

He said the bill won’t force people to move in order to find work, nor will it force people who are pursuing an education to go to work.

Blais said the main objective is to help people get ahead in the workforce.


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