Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to present what we have done as a team in attempting to deal with and improve the lives of young people across the country and with the troublesome concerns about employment opportunities for young people.
We understand that in an ever-changing workplace and with the global markets as they are, that this is not a simple problem, not one tasked to one minister, one department or one level of government. It is one that we share with other countries and organizations that have amassed the collective experience and wisdom to deal with such matters. It is a partnership.
Since we were first elected in 1993, the government has shown a great deal of concern and has taken significant steps to improve the prospects for young people.
I have had the good fortune to be in this position, first to work with youth and training and now with children and youth and to follow the progress in perhaps a more detailed way than most members have because of my mandate. We intend to continue to build on those opportunities.
We have reason to be somewhat hopeful, although there is a sense of doom and gloom. We have an obligation as elected officials to give hope to people, not false hope but to be honest about the problems. I am not prone to brush problems under the carpet and forget about them. I am one who is honest about the progress that has been made.
In the last four months youth employment has risen by 63,000 jobs, which is the best four month performance in this decade. Youth are at last benefiting from the economic recovery that has favoured adults to date.
Today's generation of young Canadians are the best educated in our history and, as a nation, we are in an excellent position to thrive in the emerging knowledge based economy.
We need to ensure that young Canadians benefit from the economic revival so that they can take their rightful place in society.
Partnership is the key to success. And as stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners to reach mutual objectives in that area.
The government has identified three priorities: first, providing a better chance for youth who are at risk because of low skills and lack of education. We cannot afford, with the resources we have to be distributed among our citizens, to forget those who are most in need. This has been cited time and time again.
The second priority is helping youth make a successful transition from school to work and the third priority is ensuring that young people have access to education so that they can fulfil their educational potential.
To support youth at risk, we will develop and expand community based programs with partners to assist young Canadians who lack skills and have low levels of education. Part of that will include establishing aboriginal multi-purpose youth centres to provide targeted support for urban aboriginal youth. We will build on the success of the school to work initiatives under the youth employment strategy.
The Government of Canada will also create a Canada-wide mentorship program. This will enable a young person to link up with a mentor who has experience in the field that the young person wants to explore. We will also expand the youth internship program and extend support for summer student job action.
What is more important than ensuring that young people who are coming out of college, universities and high schools have an opportunity to work in the summer and to help contribute in their own way to their community and to their country?
The Government of Canada will do its part to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to as many Canadians as possible. Education is, after all, one of the keys to their success and we continue to reduce barriers by providing further changes to the Canada student loans program. But we cannot do that alone. We have our partners at the provincial level to consult and our partners with the organizations that hold that expertise and responsibility.
Increased assistance for low income students with dependants through special opportunity grants should help 25,000 students each year. New scholarships, such as the Canada millennium scholarship endowment fund announced by the Prime Minister, will help low and moderate income students who show excellence in their studies.
Everyone deserves an opportunity. Everyone deserves a chance to do the best he or she can. Young people do not want a handout. They want a hand up.
When the youth unemployment numbers are analysed, two trends appear. First there are young Canadians who, for whatever reason, do not get beyond a high school education and have low skills. They are in danger of being left behind in today's economy. These individuals need more help than they can get through work experience alone. They need a variety of interventions such as counselling, skills, upgrading and literacy coaching.
Second, we find that those young Canadians with a post-secondary education are doing relatively well on average but some of these individuals find themselves in a catch-22. They have no experience, therefore they cannot get a job and they have no job, therefore they cannot get experience.
Third, we know that education is one of the factors in weighing a person's success in society. Rising post-secondary education tuition costs may make this difficult for some. Providing access to post-secondary education is a central goal for this administration and government.
The leader of the NDP was not a member of this House in the last Parliament. Perhaps she is not aware of just how much the government has done in an attempt to deal with this very troublesome problem that we are addressing today.
In 1994 we began fulfilling our election promise to help Canadian youth when we brought in the youth employment and learning strategy. After five months of being in government we pulled together a strategy. This initiative gave us our first look at youth internship, Youth Service Canada and student summer job action, programs that have proven their worth and continue to do so to this day. In our March 1996 budget the Minister of Finance announced the reallocation of $315 million over three years to help create employment opportunities for youth.
We have been building incrementally. We understand there is not one quick fix. We understand that what we have done is not enough. We understand and realize that. Our commitment is longer than one effort to deal with this issue. Other measures have followed.
In February of this year we introduced the new youth employment strategy. This strategy which consolidated over $2 billion in new and current funding builds upon existing programs and is helping 110,000 young men and women acquire extremely valuable on the job experience. For example, the new federal public sector youth internship program in partnership with the private sector's Career Edge and YM-YWCA will help 3,000 young Canadians gain experience in occupations that have great potential for future demand.
I wonder if the hon. member realizes that our youth internship and Youth Service Canada programs have a high success rate. Youth Service Canada has a 68% success rate and youth internship has a 78% success rate. This means graduates either return to school or find meaningful employment within six months of completing their work in the program.
However we cannot just measure the success of the programs quantitatively. We must look at them qualitatively as well. I have had the opportunity of meeting with many of the participants of government sponsored programs where we have engaged in some very good partnerships. Qualitatively some of these programs have given the opportunity, the hand-up that these young people need which otherwise would not be there. It has made a difference in the lives of young Canadians who want equality of opportunity. They are not asking for freebies. They are asking for an opportunity and this is what has been made available to them.
Youth Service Canada and youth internship are helping approximately 20,000 youth at risk this year alone. That is just one section of the program. This year summer student job action provided summer jobs for more than 63,000 young Canadians. Our human resources centres for students helped about 200,000 students prepare for the job market. We understand they need the counselling, they need the assistance and they need the support. That is what we have made available to them.
Nearly 40,000 callers have made use of the youth info line since the middle of August. Our Internet site has been visited more than 66,000 times since it was introduced.
In the hon. member's province of Nova Scotia, young men and women are participating in our youth internship programs. Our partner, Manutech Regional Industry Council, is helping the participants to become COBOL programmers for which there is an increasing demand as we approach the year 2000. The first class of these programmers will graduate shortly and a local employer is offering employment to those with at least an 80% average.
In my own riding of Western Arctic five young people spent the summer and early fall researching job growth in northern mineral and mining industries. Anyone who watches the news will know we are encroaching in the Northwest Territories on the largest diamond mine development in the western hemisphere. There is a small diamond development in Colorado, but for all of North and South America this is it. These young people are becoming a part of that by participating in this program. Their work will give us a data bank of 142 mining occupations which will soon be available on the Internet so that youth across the north can learn about the mining industry.
Despite these accomplishments, this government has no intention of resting on its laurels. We fully realize that youth unemployment is a serious problem. We share the concerns with hon. members of the opposition parties. We understand and share the concerns of our provincial partners. It is important enough that the premiers will convene a meeting with the Prime Minister to deal with youth unemployment and some of the other social issues that evolve around this particular problem.
In the Speech from the Throne we renewed our commitment to make employment opportunities for Canada's young people a major priority. One of the key ways for doing that is to create an economic environment that will stimulate job growth.
I am pleased to tell hon. members that we are seeing signs of improvement. We now have the lowest interest rates in 35 years and the lowest mortgage rates in 30 years. Our exports and international trade are at record levels. The overall unemployment rate is now at 9%, the lowest it has been since October 1990.
Since we first took office in 1993 more than 1.1 million jobs have been created in the private sector. We do not pretend that government creates jobs. That is not what we are all about. We understand that we have to create the climate. In just the past seven months, 292,700 jobs have been created. Among the G-7, Canada's rate of economic growth is second only to that of the United States. The OECD is projecting that our rate of employment will be higher than any other G-7 country both this year and in 1998.
In closing I would like to say to the hon. leader of the NDP that this government has demonstrated that helping Canadian youth fulfil their potential is a major priority. It is a priority because we understand that they are the future leaders of this country. They are the people who will fill the seats of this House in the years to come. They are the people who will make the decisions that will forever effect this country. We understand that and we do not see the expenditure under education experience as being wasteful. We see it as an investment. We cannot afford not to invest in the future of these young people.
I invite the hon. member from the opposition party and all members of this House to join us in working together because the interests of young people go far beyond partisanship and beyond politics. It is something we share in. We all have children and children whom we know and care about. We all understand that their future lies within the kind of initiatives that we can take in partnership to work on together.
I invite them to work with us. I also invite them to encourage the young people by visiting their local projects, by participating in the committees and meeting with the people who have ideas. The wealth of ideas is not contained within the walls of Parliament. There are people out there who have ideas and experience.
Take for instance the Ottawa-Carleton area. It has one of the best crime prevention programs for young people headed by Constable Claude Turgeon who is an expert in his field. In Vancouver there is the Picasso Cafe. Street youth provide the services in that very wonderful restaurant. Those young people have made the transition from street life to engaging in a very positive activity to advance themselves in their own life and also to contribute to the economy. There is Covenant House in Toronto for young people.
Many organizations are seized with the issues of the day that affect young people and want to help us. The Canadian Paediatric Society is interested in doing something about street youth. There are ideas outside of these walls that will help us to engage in further contributing to getting rid of unemployment for young people, in making the quality of life for young people better and in making Canada what it really is.
Despite all of the problems in our country we still have more opportunity than we have doors closed in our faces. We still have a future in this country. We are a new country which is building. In the Northwest Territories we will create two new territories in 1999. We are preparing for that. The majority of the young people in that area are under the age of 25.
A commitment cannot go any further than that, on my part or on the part of other members. We must work together to deal with this problem.