Good morning to you all, and welcome to St. John's, Newfoundland. It was great to hear the introductions from each of you and to hear where you're from. I hope that you have at least a little time to enjoy our hospitality while you're here, if you're not all rushing back to Ottawa.
Thank you, first of all, for the invitation to join this pre-budget consultation. Let me just make a few words of introduction to position my comments.
We are a charitable organization, founded in 1976—and this is an interesting comment—with funds from the federal government as an innovative demonstration project. We all think innovation is a new word that's just hit our lexicon, but in 1976 the federal government was actually encouraging that kind of activity in the community sector.
The Community Sector Council Newfoundland and Labrador has a vision of a prosperous and inclusive society that supports individuals, families, and communities. We support citizen participation and, importantly, the integration of social and economic development. We deliver innovative employment programs, particularly for young people. During the last 20 years we have provided—and this is a clear fact—over 15,000 jobs for young people throughout the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we have done that significantly with federal government funds. One of the advantages of our work with the non-profit sector is that we're able to provide work during the summer for young people in very small communities where they live. In fact, our latest statistics show that over 25% of the young people to whom we provide summer work are in communities of fewer than 1,000 people, so the reach that an organization like ours has to build on your youth employment strategy is really very significant.
It's our view that the community sector, which is often referred to as a non-profit or voluntary sector, is absolutely fundamental, and in fact central, to economic and social progress in Canada. A strong civic economy encourages productive citizens, contributes to the private sector, and delivers many programs for public benefit. In fact, each and every one of us benefits every single day from non-profit and community-based organizations. Whether through sports activities, hiking trails, services for seniors or youth, social services, or health services, there's not a Canadian who does not benefit from the work of the non-profit sector.
Let me now turn to the specific questions the committee has posed this year. First of all, let me make some suggestions for federal measures to help Canadians be more productive.
Our first recommendation is that you continue and, in fact, expand financial support for youth employment programs such as Canada summer jobs, skills link, and youth internships. I think we all know that early job experience is very important. It should provide a positive experience and an opportunity for personal growth. One of the things we've learned over the years as we have provided support to so many students is that early career development opportunities should go hand in hand with work opportunities.
Our second recommendation is that in budget 2018 you require that career development learning opportunities be incorporated into all employment programs financed by the Government of Canada. Often the most important skills that young people need to learn are the soft skills, which are not taught in many educational programs but which are of real value.
Let me just make a side note here. This summer we had a particular program in which we placed 150 young people who were at significant risk and vulnerable. Many of them were already wards of the provincial government. These young people had had very little exposure to networking, to meeting people, and to the world of work. We actually did a workshop with them, which taught them how to look people in the eye, how to shake hands, and how to introduce themselves. While that seems so incredibly simple, you wouldn't believe the impact that had on the young people who came from small communities and who had never been in that kind of environment before.
After a couple of the sessions we did with them, doing those simple kinds of career development exercises, a couple of the young men actually came up crying, saying that it was the most important day they had ever had, being taught those simple skills. It's pretty easy sometimes when we're working in our world, at the level we work at, to forget those simple things that are so important.
Our third recommendation, therefore, is that because career development is fundamental to helping Canadians be more productive, we suggest the creation of a round table of non-profit leaders with on-the-ground career development experience to co-create, with the federal government, a strengthened framework for delivering effective and efficient work and career training programs directed at assisting people to become more productive. This speaks directly to your question about Canadians being more productive. We need to appreciate that all Canadians have a place in our economy and that sometimes some people need additional support.
Our fourth recommendation, in line with budget 2017, is that we recommend that you move forward quickly to improve access to, and take-up of, post-secondary education for lower-income Canadians through the Canada learning bond. This is an incredibly important program. It is available through the registered educational plan, but it is a special program for low-income Canadians who do not have to make any contribution of their own. By the time their children finish high school, they actually have a nest egg of $2,000 for their children's education. This has really a two-pronged benefit. First, it provides cash, but it also creates an attitude toward post-secondary education. We also encourage that the ceiling be increased regularly, in line with CPI, from the current $2,000 limit.
Your second question was around measures to help Canadian businesses become more productive and competitive. We adhere to the view that the term “business” applies not only to a for-profit business but also to a non-profit business that has a mission to build and fulfill charitable missions. As our fifth recommendation, we urge you to augment the collection of key data on the non-profit sector by Statistics Canada that would enable better policy-making and more effective business planning by the non-profit sector. Years ago there was much greater collection of appropriate data. That has been curtailed significantly. We think it's fundamental that we understand more the role of the non-profit sector in the Canadian economy.
Our sixth recommendation is that you consider the creation of a social innovation fund—much like the strategic innovation fund, but with an emphasis on social innovation—to ramp up capacity to address complex social problems and to find ways to meet the needs of Canadians in the face of changing demographics and new economic realities. Many of the solutions that we see to complex problems often come from community-based organizations. We think we need to free up that social innovation capacity. We are pleased to see the creation of a social innovation and social finance co-creation steering committee. We suggest that its work be further advanced in budget 2018.
Our final recommendation is that the federal government should acknowledge more fully the economic contribution of the community sector and provide additional funding for research and development to support social innovation. We know that many non-profits contribute extensively to the economy in addition to improving the quality of life in Canada, yet we don't necessarily know the full impact of the work of non-profits to the economy.
The next comment I would like to make is perhaps a little bit more negative than the rest of my comments.
There is an incredibly prevalent view across the country, and, I have to say, particularly often in relations we have with federal government departments and individuals, that the only real or actual jobs are created by and in the private sector.
This is an extraordinarily short-sighted view, and it leads to many missed opportunities that this country could be developing and moving forward.
In summary, there are opportunities that might be embraced by the Government of Canada to more fully explore the essential role and collective value of the community sector and to more clearly understand and appreciate that social development is absolutely essential to economic growth. We encourage you in budget 2018 to fully recognize this sector as a major economic driver and not just as peripheral to the economy. We call for a mindset shift and bold actions to ensure that its leaders are included as partners in all opportunities for greater productivity and business growth. The sector has an amazing capacity to help Canadians be more productive, and knowledge to spur innovation to enhance Canadian competitiveness.
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today and to present our point of view.