New Democrat tour to highlight B.C.’s slide to last place in youth economic engagement

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VICTORIA – New Democrat advanced education critic David Eby’s upcoming tour will highlight B.C.’s six-year slide from national leader to last place for youth economic engagement.

“B.C. was the second-best province in Canada just six years ago for youth economic engagement, but now Statistics Canada says that one in 10 B.C. youth between the ages of 15 and 19 are not working or in school,” said New Democrat advanced education critic David Eby. “Shockingly, the rate of young people not working and not in school between the ages of 25 and 29 is double that, at one in five. We’ve slid from leader to last place among reporting provinces in Canada.”

Eby will begin a tour next week of Kelowna, Prince George, and Surrey, where he’ll talk to youth about why so many young people are being shut out of school and the economy. During this round, Eby will present findings from his last tour where he met with students at almost all of B.C.’s public post-secondary institutions. Eby notes that the number one theme he heard overwhelmingly from students was about skyrocketing student debt, a broken loan system, and the lack of accessible employment upon graduation.

“The B.C. Liberals have made it next to impossible for young British Columbians to access the training and education they need to apply for jobs in their own communities, and the results of this short sighted planning is an economic crisis among young people in this province,” said Eby. “Instead of supporting the next generation, the BC Liberals have done things like levy a secret tax on youth through a minimum 2.5% student loan interest surcharge. Their policy makes no sense.”

Eby noted that failing to train the next generation has a cost. More than 55,000 British Columbians between the ages of 19 and 24 were added to the welfare rolls over the last six years, an increase of 55 per cent. Over the same period, 29 per cent of the few new jobs created in B.C. have gone to temporary foreign workers.

“Provincially held B.C. student debt crossed the 1 billion dollar mark in 2011, and we’re adding $100 million dollars to that amount every year,” said Eby. “This is the generation that is supposed to support the boomers in retirement, yet they’re drowning in debt, can’t even borrow enough to pay tuition, and are shut out of the job market. Something has to change.”

Eby is presenting his findings from his tour of publicly funded post-secondary schools in B.C. across the province in January and February. He hopes to bring stories from young people in B.C. to the legislature when it resumes in February.