Over the past year, Alberta’s youth have faced a constant stream of challenges and attacks from Jason Kenney’s government. These youth should be the future of our province – we should be investing in their success – but instead, they are being treated as a demographic to be ignored, an expense to be cut.
In June 2019, Kenney’s government made its first move to impact young Albertans by lowering the youth minimum wage. I remember MLA Peter Guthrie claiming it was to encourage employers to hire more youth, but this plan clearly has not worked. We have seen youth unemployment skyrocket (15.2 per cent in November 2019), with the unemployment rate of young men aged 15 to 24 reaching a whopping 19.4 per cent.
That July, the UCP government made history in an attack on LGBTQ2+ youth by passing Bill 8, marking the first time in Canadian history a government rolled back the rights of anyone in the LGBTQ2+ community. They removed protections from these youth, and with the bill, put some of them at potential risk in their homes. It also provided schools the ability to delay the creation of GSA support groups indefinitely, effectively removing one of the only support networks many of these youth had.
In an attempt to pay for the $4.7-billion hole they blew in our budget, the UCP also cut the per-student spending in public education, impacting the level of service the youngest in this province can expect to find in their schools. These schools are already bursting at the seams, and now face a cut to their funding mid-year, with no expectation to see funding match the growth of our province in the future. Despite the Herculean efforts of teachers and school boards, Jason Kenney’s attack on our school system will have a notable, and measurable impact on our youth, and the long-term future of our province. Worse, the UCP has cut post-secondary education funding, putting this out of the reach of many hopeful young Albertans.
Since Kenney implemented his $4.7-billion “Job Creation Tax Cut,” it hasn’t created a single job. In fact, since this and the youth minimum wage were implemented, 20,500 more youth are unemployed. Numbers like that, alongside the loss of youth program funding of up to 40 per cent in Cochrane, or $800,000 lost by North Rocky View Community Links, show this government is failing to provide our youth with the services they need to ensure a successful future for our province.
It has been just over a year since Jason Kenney suggested that my age meant I shouldn’t have a voice in politics. It’s clear from his actions over that year why he was so afraid of young Albertans paying attention – he and his government have no intention of supporting them. Sadly, evidence is showing that our youth, in the eyes of the UCP, are nothing more than an expendable line item, therefore not worth his time to support.