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Calgary council votes to bring student summer jobs back to the city

Student summer jobs are returning to the city of Calgary, but most of the positions won’t really ramp up until the summer of 2020.

That’s because a motion brought forward by Coun. Jeromy Farkas and Mayor Naheed Nenshi was a bit too late for this year.

“There probably won’t be much of a program this summer, unfortunately,” said the mayor. “We’re a little too late in hiring and we don’t have the ability to apply for those grants.”

Hiring students for summer backfill positions, and for seasonal programs has been a longstanding program at the city, but last summer it didn’t happen at all.

The city’s acting chief financial officer Carla Male told councillors that the cost to the city per year is around $500,000.

The program was on the list of services that had to be cut in the city’s latest budget. Both Farkas and Nenshi expressed concern about losing it, and the potential value it also brings, so they co-sponsored a motion to bring it back.

“A very large number of these students come back and work at this city for their careers,” said Nenshi, who noted he had a summer position 23 years ago.

He said with youth unemployment especially high in the city – hovering between 25 and 30 per cent, creating those temporary positions is important.

According to Nenshi – concerns have been raised by city employee unions about bringing back the program.

Male told the mayor that some of the positions are positions within the unions’ bargaining agreements, but added that she couldn’t go into much detail without going behind closed doors.

Farkas suggested that the program could be brought back in such a way that would respect the unions’ rights.

He said there are always savings to be found within the city’s budget, but he didn’t want to see those savings come at the expense of deserving young people.

“Summer students receive so much benefit from the program, but I would argue that the city also sees benefit – just from the fresh ideas, the voices at the table,” he said. “Many members of administration reached out and said they appreciate those mentoring opportunities.”

The motion passed 9-5, with Coun. Shane Keating not present. The dissenting votes were from councillors Sean Chu, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Jeff Davison, Joe Magliocca and Ward Sutherland.