Tom Mulcair promises $200M to boost youth employment

A New Democratic government would "crack down" on unpaid internships in Canada, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Thursday as he unveiled the party's plan to curb youth unemployment.

Job prospects for young people 'are not very good and that has to change,' NDP leader says

Mulcair says apprenticeships should be paid and he plans to create more of them with federal infrastructure projects. 3:12

A New Democratic government would "crack down" on unpaid internships in Canada, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Thursday as he unveiled the party's plan to curb youth unemployment. 

Mulcair promised to provide up to $200 million over four years towards efforts with the private sector and non-government organizations to generate up 40,000 jobs, paid internships and co-op placements for young people. 

According to the NDP leader, the plan will "break the vicious cycle that exists: no experience, no job; no job, no experience."

"The job prospects for young people are not very good and that has to change," Mulcair said during the campaign stop in Winnipeg. 

The youth unemployment rate currently sits at 13.1 per cent, nearly double the national average, according to Statistics Canada which defines youths as those aged 15 to 24.

Under the plan, all infrastructure projects receiving at least $10 million in federal funding will be required to hire apprentices, including development projects at federally regulated airports, port authorities and Crown corporations. 

An NDP government would also provide $5 million a year in grants so that municipalities can create 1,250 apprenticeships if the party is elected in the Oct. 19 vote, Mulcair said.

The initiative will be fully costed and included in the NDP's official platform, which the party said will be released before the economy-themed debate in Calgary on Sept. 17.

Mulcair also stressed that a major component of the plan will include a "crack down" on unpaid internships that are not a part of an education program. 

When pressed by reporters about what exactly such an effort would look like, Mulcair said the focus will be establishing "basic protections that are not afforded right now."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said, if elected, his party would commit $200 million over four years to create 40,000 jobs and opportunities for young people. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

He said an NDP government would make sure youth have "protection for health and safety." 

"To every intern out there: When you get hired, you deserve to be paid and you deserve to be safe in your workplace," he said. 

The NDP has previously championed limiting unpaid internships in federally regulated industries. Quebec MP Laurin Liu tabled a private members bill, the Intern Protection Act, in June 2014 that sought to amend the Canada Labour Code, expanding the definition of "employee" to include unpaid interns. It also would have provided interns with protections from sexual harassment and excessive hours and the right to refuse dangerous work. 

The bill was defeated during a second reading in April. 

In January. the Conservatives had met with stakeholders about possible Labour Code changes to give unpaid interns the same rights as paid employees, but no changes were ushered in as a result of the consultations. 

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