Mr. Speaker, my issue is with the Minister of Human Resources Development. We were discussing the summer career placement program. This year the minister changed the rules of hiring under the program as it relates to municipalities.
Until this year all non-profit sector groups could take on students for the summer and it would not cost them anything. The private sector would pay 50% of the wages. Municipalities would pay the benefits, which would be a very small amount, but generally they received practically full funding to hire students.
This year for some reason the minister decided that municipalities would be lumped in the same category as the private sector. They in turn would pay half the wages of the students who would be hired during the summer by the municipality or any agency directly connected with the municipality.
When I asked the minister why she did it, she basically said that it made sense because she could spread the money a lot further. Instead of a municipality getting full funding for one student, it could hire two students because it was contributing half their wages.
That sounds very laudable. It would give more students the opportunity to receive employment for the summer. However the minister is forgetting that many municipalities throughout the country are in no position at all to pay the cost of hiring anybody.
The smaller municipalities in particular have been subjected to downloading from the federal government to the provincial governments and eventually to the municipal governments, to the degree that many of them cannot afford to pay for the basic services they provide right now and are in deficit positions.
Many small communities in rural Canada are trying to balance their budgets by cutting back on services such as picking up garbage and providing street lights. Consequently they have no extra funding to hire students or anybody else, as I mentioned, during the summer or at any time.
This means that many municipalities are taken off the hiring list entirely. It did not solve any problem. It created a big one. In many smaller communities the most responsible body, the best organized body, is the municipality. Supervision and organization of programs are usually done better by municipalities than some of the other agencies.
This year in smaller communities in particular, and even in larger ones, other non-profit groups have to pick up the slack and hire the students. Nobody wins. The municipalities lose. That is why we ask the minister to change her mind, to allow the municipalities to hire students and to pay the full funding to them to do that.