Canada Emergency Student Benefit Bill: Consideration in Committee of the Whole – Sen. Dalphond

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Senator Dalphond: Thank you for being here today, minister. I have two questions for you. The first is a question that several of my colleagues have already asked. Senator Massicotte, Senator Loffreda, Senator Miville-Dechêne and I have been asking questions of senior officials in your department.

I would like you to comment on the measures the government is bringing in to encourage students to go to work, as the other place asked you to do in a motion that was adopted on Wednesday.

Ms. Qualtrough: Thank you for the question.

The implementation of this benefit is more stringent than the CERB’s. If I could change one thing about the CERB it would be to incorporate the same level of stringency as that of the emergency student benefit.

[English]

We should require that students be looking for jobs and that students attest to the fact that they are looking for jobs. And, quite frankly, if students are offered a job, they should take it. I have been very unapologetic about saying that. That’s why we put so much effort into creating jobs as part of this big package, because we knew that the challenge would be finding that balance. And we had to create job opportunities so that students would make those choices. But I will reiterate that students want to work.

The other piece of this is the service grant. If you volunteer a certain number of hours — 100 hours, $1,000; 300 hours, $3,000. So we ideally will have many students contributing to their communities through service this summer as well.

[Translation]

Senator Dalphond: The Government of Quebec has created a program that encourages people to work on farms by providing a financial incentive of $100 a week. Would it be possible for the department, when drafting the regulations, to ensure that this incentive is not treated as income, but rather as a government benefit that, by definition, would be excluded from the $1,000 of income? If you earn more than $1,000, you lose the entire benefit.

[English]

Ms. Qualtrough: We started a program called Step Up to the Plate, which is a national awareness program for students, challenging them to step up and work on our farms, and contribute and feed their country. That happened in France and that was successful.

Graham, could you answer the technical part?

[Translation]

Mr. Flack: The legislation gives the minister some leeway on how to treat this benefit in the regulations.

Our intention is to work with the provincial government to determine what it intends to do. If the Quebec government treats this incentive as a grant and not as employment income, it will be treated differently. We will adjust our approach to the objectives of the provincial government.

Senator Dalphond: If the Government of Quebec announces that the $100 is a scholarship for students who agree to work on a farm, this amount won’t count towards the $1,000 of income. Thank you.

In my first question I asked about measures to encourage people to work. Will you create a website or any other measures to post available jobs in a given region? For example, fish plants in Gaspésie or New Brunswick needing 200 workers, or 50 workers being needed to pick strawberries near Saint-Jean.

Ms. Qualtrough: That’s exactly what our Job Bank already accomplishes. You can input a region and see the jobs available in that area. Legislation requires us, as a government, to do so. The Government of Quebec also has a website that does the exact same thing. That means there are two websites: the Job Bank and Quebec’s site.

Senator Dalphond: Could we ensure that, as soon as students apply for the benefit, they would be given information on the jobs available in their regions?

Ms. Qualtrough: That’s exactly what we’ll do. Once the application has been accepted, we’ll direct them to these jobs.

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