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Federal NDP push Ottawa to extend CESB with money from cancelled WE program

NDP MP Heather McPherson wants the student emergency COVID-19 benefit extended until December. Student advocates want more directed aid and have been pushing for this since mid-July

The federal New Democratic Party (NDP) are calling on the prime minister to give post-secondary students and recent graduates more direct aid.

Faced with the difficulties of a constricting job market and added challenges with a COVID-19 pandemic environment, Heather McPherson Edmonton Strathcona NDP Member of Parliament, called on the federal government to provide more aid to students and recent graduates.

McPherson said students were promised an opportunity to for aid in the form of the now cancelled Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG). She wants all the money allocated towards that program to be spent on extending the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

In a statement released on September 9, McPherson said help was promised to Canadian students and recent graduates by Prime Minister Trudeau. Many began volunteering expecting to receive financial support but are now in limbo because of the student service grant cancellation.

“Help was promised for students when the Prime Minister announced the Canada Student Service Grant program but that help has disappeared with Trudeau’s WE Charity scanda,” McPherson said. “Students were counting on that support and many went ahead and volunteered believing that they would receive it.”

“Many of the internships and apprenticeships that students rely on in the summer were cancelled. Students should not suffer the consequences of the government’s poor decisions.”

The Canada Student Service Grant was originally announced on June 25 by Trudeau as a way to help employ students and equip them with valuable skills since many internships and employment opportunities were cancelled due to COVID-19. The program was to cost over $900 million and was part of the Liberal government’s $9 billion in post-secondary COVID-19 student support. The CSSG was cancelled due to controversy over assigning it in a non-competitive government process to the WE Charity and the charity’s close ties to members of the Liberal Party, including Trudeau and his former finance minister.

McPherson hopes the over $900 million will be used by the government to extend the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), which ended on August 29, to December 2020.

“The government must allocate the funds [from the Canada Student Service Grant] into direct aid for students,” she said.

Liberal government says it is taking “strong action” to support post-secondary students

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment when reached out to The Gateway.

Marielle Hossack, spokesperson from the Minister of Employment, Workforce, Development, and Disability Inclusion Office responded saying the government has taken strong and concrete actions to support post-secondary students.

“Our Government continues to take strong action to provide youth, students, and new graduates with the support they need to move forward from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and successfully plan for their future careers,” Hossack said.

“We remain committed to supporting students and ensuring youth get the experience and skills they need to succeed.”

Hossack said over $2.8 billion in aid was given to almost 700,000 post-secondary students and recent graduates through the Canada Student Emergency Benefit (CESB). Additionally, over $260 million was spent to give 40,000 students work placements through the Student Work Placement program. She added that these measures were on-top of changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program and the six-month interest free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans.

Hossack did not say if the Liberal government would consider reallocating money from the cancelled Canada Student Service Grant program to more aid for students or extending the Canada Student Emergency Benefit (CESB).

Student advocates continue to push government for more direct aid to students

Rowan Ley, University of Alberta Students’ Union vice-president (external) said in a statement to The Gateway that student advocates have been pushing for more directed student aid since mid-July.

Ley said the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), the federal advocacy body representing 23 post-secondary student unions, wanted the Canada Student Service Grant money reallocated since mid-July and submitted a list of recommendations to the federal government about ways to use that money for the best interests of students. Some recommendations includedgrants to improve access to digital technology for low-income students, supports to help international students stay and work in Canada, and extending the student loan payment moratorium.

“Alongside our partners in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), we have been calling on the federal government to reallocate the money which was initially budgeted for the Canada Student Service Grant since mid-July,” Ley said.

“The grant program had been expected to deliver over $900 million in aid to students and recent graduates during this difficult time, and it is unacceptable that the government has not yet taken action to use this money, which was already budgeted, to support students in other ways,” he added.

For Ley, more directed student aid like the ones CASA is advocating for would help more students in need in a targeted way more than simply extending the CESB.

“We sincerely hope that the federal government will accept and take action to quickly implement [our recommended] measures to provide much-needed relief to students and recent graduates.”

Adam Lachacz

Adam Lachacz is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway for 2020-21. Previously, he was the 2019-20 News Editor, 2018-19 Staff Reporter, and a senior volunteer contributor from 2016-18. He is a fourth-year student studying history and political science. Adam is addicted to the news, an aspiring sneakerhead, and loves a good cup of black coffee.

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