By Rob South
The federal riding of Calgary-West, which includes the University of Calgary, will see $176,000 less spent on Summer Career Placement positions than was recommended by Human Resources Development Canada.
Calgary-West MP Rob Anders rejected 83 positions out of the over $496,000 worth recommended for the HRDC-run SCP program. The program is designed to create opportunities for students to find a well-paying summer job that gives career-related experience.
"It does not happen very often that MP’s disagree with projects brought forward," said HRDC spokesman Daniel Lavoie.
The recommendations for SCP are brought forward to MP’s from local HRDC offices. According to Anders, not enough information was included with the recommendations.
"If all they give us is 24 hours notice, and little to no information, we told HRDC we would refuse them all," said Anders.
Steve Windlinger, HRDC manager for Calgary-Centre, stated that the process was no different from last year when Anders did not reject any SCP positions.
"[HRDC] sent over a list last year as well, but there was no insistence on signing off," said Anders on the differences between the two years.
Windlinger stands behind this year’s process of taking the recommendations to MP’s.
"We were much more proactive in giving every member of parliament an opportunity to respond to [the recommendations.]"
Regardless of whether there were changes in process, U of C Students’ Union President Toby White is concerned about employment opportunities for students this summer, because some SCP positions were rejected.
"[Some students] won’t have money to pay for school, or might get the same level of pay, but no career-related experience," he said.
All private sector SCP positions were rejected by Anders, as well as positions in not-for-profit organizations that Anders said were of "dubious" benefit.
"We would all just be far better off if you just cut taxes," said Anders. "What [SCP] does is try to make various institutions, be it not-for-profit or for-profit, dependent on government."
The approach Anders is taking with respect to his political views concerns White.
"If he’s opposed to recent HRDC decisions, there were a number of ways he could have demonstrated this," said White. "Why go after students?"
Lavoie also has concerns about the actions of the Calgary-West MP
"In Calgary there are students who parliament has voted money for summer student employment," he said. "This denies students the opportunity to access this money."
White is worried about small not-for-profit organizations that would normally receive money to employ students.
"When they lose funding for a position like that they have to find funding elsewhere or eliminate the position," he said.
At the U of C, the SU, the Faculty Association, Campus Recreation and several other groups had SCP applications rejected. U of C Student Legal Assistance normally receives four SCP positions each summer, but this year they initially only received one on the recommendation of HRDC
After an appeal, HRDC increased that number to three, but SLA was dissatisfied with the initial process.
"We had a legitimate expectation that we would either receive our application or be notified in a reasonable amount of time if there was to be substantial changes," said SLA Student Director Pat Lindsay.
The SU appealed to HRDC Minister Jane Stewart to override Anders’ decisions.
While he did not comment on what the minister will do, Lavoie stated, "The minister is very concerned with the situation."
CJSW, the campus radio station, is currently circulating a petition asking Anders to reconsider his decision. Students are going door-to-door in Calgary-West asking constituents to sign the petition.