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NDP targets UCP policies amid rise of youth unemployment

NDP leader Rachel Notley and MLA Joe Ceci are flanked by young Calgarians Brandon Beavan (left) and Matthew Ondrejka (centre) as they blame the United Conservative Party government for rising youth unemployment. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Though the United Conservative Party government has been in place for less than a year, the opposition NDP is placing blame following a grim jobs report for Alberta.

“It is clear that Jason Kenney’s plan isn’t working,” NDP leader Rachel Notley said in Calgary on Tuesday.

With two young out-of-work Albertans at her side, Notley said a reduction in youth wages and a corporate tax cut have not been effective in the first few months of the UCP mandate.

“All Jason Kenney and the UCP have done is take money out of the pockets of young Albertans,” she said. “Certainly this idea that slashing youth wages by $1.75 an hour was somehow going to be some magical formula for more young people getting work has been shown to be unsuccessful.”

The Statistics Canada report for November showed a total of 18,000 job losses in the province.

But also, it showed there are 20,500 fewer youth employed, increasing the youth unemployment rate to 15.2 per cent — which is a five-point increase from the same time last year.

And just for men aged 15-24, the unemployment rate jumped to 19.4 per cent.

“The sharpest increase outside of a recession on record,” Notley added.

Notley also pointed to the cuts of some tax credits, like the Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit and Summer Temporary Employment Program, are worsening the issue and rising tuition fees are going to make it harder to go to school in the first place.

Brandon Beavan lost a job last month, and said even after sending in numerous resumes has been unable to find a new place to work.

“I’ve submitted hundreds of resumes in everything that comes my way,” Beavan said. “From those two hundred resumes and applications, I’ve received one callback and interview.”

Beavan added that after following up with some of the companies, he learned the demand for work is far outpacing the supply.

“They said that they’ve never seen it this bad,” Beavan added. “That they’ll have to find two or three people out of a thousand applications to hire for one position. Which is crazy.”

It’s a similar story for Michael Ondrejka, who wants to find a job to pay for school.

“I have been looking for a job for the last few months, and more over the last year on and off, and I have got I think two interviews out of the dozens, probably hundreds, of resumes I have sent out. It’s difficult, I want to find a school program that I like and a job that puts me through that,” Ondrejka said.

Notley said a major risk here is that people may start leaving the province to seek better opportunities elsewhere, and no matter what the government promises in terms of a resurgence in the energy sector, this will end up as a negative.

Following the November jobs report, Kenney said he did not expect an immediate turnaround in jobs, because he believed he inherited an economy in recession and the market may improve in the new year if the oil and gas sector sees a boost.

But for those in the struggle like Beavan and Ondrejka, it is already taking a toll.

“I’ve honestly never been this scared or this uncertain about what my future is going to hold,” said Beavan.

“As a young person in Alberta, I just want to work hard, make a living and be able to go to school. It’s kind of distressing and it doesn’t really help with mental health either,” said Ondrejka.

“This government promised jobs and opportunities for young Albertans, and I’m just not seeing them.”