April 22, 1971

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM

LIB

Gérard Pelletier (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Gerard Pelletier (Secretary of State):

Mr. Speaker, on March 16, the Prime Minister made the following statement in the House of Commons:

We are saying, in effect, to the youth of Canada that we are impressed by their desire to fight pollution, that we believe they are well motivated in their concern for the disadvantaged; that we have confidence in their value system. We are also saying that we intend to challenge them to see if they have the stamina and the self-discipline to follow through on their criticism and advice.

tTranslation]

Since the closing date for the submission of proposals under the Opportunities for Youth program, April 15, is now past, I should like to report briefly to the House on student response to the Prime Minister's challenge.

As you are aware, the Opportunities for Youth program for which $14.7 million have been allocated is but one aspect of the over-all 1971 summer employment program. As well, there are the traditional employment programs in the public service, the militia, travel and exchange, hostels and kiosks, language training and athletic scholarships which, in all, account for a total expenditure of $57.8 million. All these programs have been most favourably received and are well in progress.

It can be said without exaggerating that in every part of the country, in large urban centres and rural communities, young people have responded to Opportunities for Youth program with an enthusiasm, generosity and imagination which provide tangible and striking proof of the creative ability of the young generation and its desire to contribute to the economic and social development of our society.

To date, from all parts of Canada, we have received more than 8,600 proposals representing a total value of approximately $150 million. More than 148,000 jobs would be created by these projects if they could all be implemented. The vast majority of jobs, or 50,000, would be created in the province of Quebec through 2,485 schemes involving a cost of $59 million. Ontario follows closely with 2,900 proposals for the creation of 47,900 jobs at a cost of $40.8 million.

From British Columbia, 833 proposals were received for the creation of 14,000 jobs at a cost of $17.1 million. From the Prairies came 1,000 proposals for 14,600 jobs at a cost of $15.6 million, and from the Maritimes, 1,410 projects for 19,800 jobs at a cost of $17.2 million.

What are the students proposing? To offer rehabilitation services for blind children; to assist remote pockets of the population which have little or no access to medical and dental care or to the social services available in major centres; to undertake community development projects which would be unprofitable for the private or public sector; to conduct scientific or sociological research designed to produce immediate benefits to the community; to establish contact with the disadvantaged segments of the population, elderly persons and transient youth to encourage them to take part in examining and solving their own problems.

Several proposals are of a cultural nature. Theatre companies will perform in remote areas. Several young people will organize workshops to enable persons who do not normally have access to the visual arts to become acquainted with this field.

There is something contagious about the idealism of youth. Nevertheless, if public funds are to be used to meet this idealism, a number of government requirements must be satisfied.

As you are aware, by the criteria established for the program, proposals which do not involve sufficient student participation or represent merely a financial extension of provincial or municipal services may not be approved; also excluded are profit-oriented schemes and projects which would benefit only those whom they would employ, etc. Each project is carefully assessed and will be approved only if we are sufficiently assured of its successful implementation.

The Opportunities for Youth Secretariat which is responsible for the study of all project applications presents its recommendations to a committee of senior officials of my department. Before any decision is taken, provincial and municipal governments concerned are consulted as well as other federal departments to establish the validity and viability of projects. Finally, a federal interdepartmental committee oversees the program to ensure that it is carried out in accordance with the criteria established and announced earlier by the government.

Despite the size of the demand and the value of the projects, the government must pick and choose. Beginning next week, authors of the proposals will be

April 22, 1971

Opportunities for Youth Program informed of decisions reached, a process which will continue to mid-May so that all projects may be fairly and equally assessed. Some persons have doubted the students ability to respond in time to the Prime Minister's challenge. The number of applications belies that suggestion. I wish to assure all those who have taken up the challenge that the government on its side will respond to their requests in good time.

Finally, one thing is certain, Mr. Speaker. Because of the very nature of the program, what government support is enabling young people to accomplish will not reduce the level of employment in other sectors of the labour market.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. David MacDonald (Egmonl):

Mr. Speaker, the Secretary of State, in concluding his remarks dealing with the Opportunities for Youth program, said that some persons have doubted the students ability to respond. I think he might well have indicated that one of the chief persons who seemed to express doubt, though perhaps in a subtle way, was the Prime Minister himself in the remarks he made on March 16. Perhaps the minister himself has also been surprised by the degree to which young people from all across the country have responded. But I can say for members on this side of the House that we have never doubted the capacity, interest or ability of youth to respond.

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

With the kind of response that the Secretary of State has indicated this afternoon, I believe we have been fully justified in that faith. The question that will be asked today and in succeeding days as this program is implemented is whether the faith of the young people in their government will be justified.

I am afraid that in the remarks of the Secretary of State this afternoon little has been said to relieve the growing fears and apprehensions that many, if not most, of the young people who willingly accepted that the government was acting in good faith when this program was announced will soon be receiving their pink, red or green slips in the mail telling them that their projects will not be accepted.

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Shame!

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

For days and weeks members on this side of the House have been asking for a clear statement of the criteria and objectives to be used with regard to this program. One would have expected, in fact, that the Secretary of State, who is a reasonable and intelligent individual-

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

-would not risk the public embarrassment that he has obviously brought upon himself this afternoon by making this kind of presentation without in effect saying to the young people of the country: Here is the basis on which we plan to deal with the

Opportunities for Youth program. Instead, what has he given us? He has given us three negative criteria. I will not repeat them; they are in the minister's statement. But he said nothing to answer the essential questions related to the growing problem of unemployment and student unemployment across the country, nothing related to the criteria of regional need, nothing related to the problems of the individual financial need of students, nothing related to the whole question of initiative which was referred to earlier by the minister in charge of housing, nothing with regard to the format of organizations that might be submitting projects, and nothing with regard to the size of projects, the amount of money to be expended and the size of salaries. The list goes on and on. In effect the Secretary of State this afternoon has offered no direction and no understanding to the young people of this country. One is led to believe that in the final analysis the decisions that will be made will not be made on the basis of any kind of criteria but will be made mostly on the basis of influence and accident. That is not good enough for this kind of program.

We have heard far too many reports, since a special staff was assigned to look after this program, of pure and simple administrative chaos. Members who have had the opportunity to visit the staff working on this program and who have perhaps been in the unfortunate position of trying to contact them by telephone, which I am told is almost an impossible exercise, know that there is extreme disorder in the administration of this plan which was brought in far too late to be implemented with any kind of effectiveness. In addition, seemingly the government has taken positions that make absolutely no sense in light of the large number of students who desperately need work this summer. The decision that none of the money awarded through this program can in any way be related to gainful employment or to profit seems totally stupid when one realizes that if the $15 million allocated for the Opportunities for Youth program had been used in many instances as seed money, as it could well have been because we have heard of some projects submitted on that basis, it could have a ripple effect that would have provided $50 million or even $70 million worth of employment for students this summer.

The Secretary of State told us that the requests submitted amount to some $150 million in terms of forecast expenditures, but he has not answered the basic question of just how much beyond the original allocated amount of $15 million the government is prepared to go. A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) said in the House that there might be some possibility of using money from other programs in the $57 million allocation, but anyone who thinks about that answer must realize we will only know if that money is available at the end of the summer, not now when money must be available if projects are to be implemented.

I believe we are faced with a most serious situation in this country and it will become increasingly serious as we realize how little the government is prepared to

April 22, 1971

implement the program it announced a little more than a month ago.

The Secretary of State this afternoon quoted the Prime Minister as follows:

We are also saying that we intend to challenge them-

The young people,

-to see if they have the stamina and the self-discipline to follow through on their criticism and advice.

Mr. Speaker, I think that phrase of the Prime Minister must now be turned toward him. If I may say it directly to him, I would say that the young people are now saying to you, Mr. Prime Minister-

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. I have to tell the hon. member that he cannot say that, and at the same time I must remind him of the terms of Standing Order 15 which allow an hon. member to comment briefly on a ministerial statement. I think the hon. member is exceeding the limitations prescribed by the Standing Order.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to trespass on the good nature of the Chair.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

I presume that your interpretation of "brief" and mine may be somewhat different. To conclude, I would simply say that the young people are saying to the Prime Minister, in his own words, that they have the stamina and the self-discipline. They have accepted the challenge in very large measure, and now they want to see if he has the stamina, if he has the intestinal fortitude, to follow through on their suggestions and their advice. If there is not a response adequate to meet the obvious interest and enthusiasm of young people, if indeed the government has added to the cynicism of youth about its governments, then if there is unrest and disillusionment, even violence on the part of young people this summer-

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Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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?

Some hon. Members:

Irresponsible.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

-Mr. Speaker, then we will all know-

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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PC

David Samuel Horne MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacDonald (Egmonl):

-who it is-

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STATEMENT OF SECRETARY OF STATE ON OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH PROGRAM
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April 22, 1971