Less than two weeks after the Harper government said it would axe the long-running Katimavik program for young people, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore was in Toronto to announce almost $27-million in spending on what he terms "effective, affordable" programs for youth, most of them co-ordinated from the Ontario capital.
Mr. Moore's pledge, delivered on Tuesday at the Bell Lightbox headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival, echoed that of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who, in his March 30 budget speech, said the Harper government is committed to "effective, affordable programming that engages youth." Mr. Flaherty characterized Katimavik, with an annual budget of $15-million and 1,100 volunteers billeted yearly across the country, as involving "a very small number of participants at an excessive per-person cost."
The $26.7-million, a mix of previously committed and new money, is earmarked for eight projects. The biggest beneficiary is the YMCA of Greater Toronto, awarded 90 per cent of the money. Nearly $9-million of this will be used over the next three fiscal years to bankroll and administer the Y's youth exchanges program. The federal government has assisted the national program, which has twinned 1,700 youths ages 12 to 17 each year with same-age groups in other provinces and territories for more than 30 years.
"Our government is offering young people the opportunity to connect with one another, exchange ideas and explore their potential while experiencing what our communities have to offer," Mr. Moore said in a statement.
Also announced was $15.2-million for the Y's summer work student exchange, although only $5.1-million of this is new (for 2012-13), representing the conclusion of a three-year contract signed by the federal government in 2010. National in scope but administered in Toronto, the six-week employment/language-immersion program involves 900 youths aged 16 and 17 in anglophone and francophone communities.
Other recipients named on Tuesday include Student Vote ($300,000/ 2011-13), TakingIT Global Youth Association ($450,000/2010-13), REEL Canada: National Expansion Project ($550,000/ 2010-13), ArtsSmarts: 21st-Century Youth Creativity Challenge ($320,000/ 2011-2013) and Children and Youth Cultural Development Association ($180,000 for National Youth Arts Week May 1-7, 2012), all headquartered in Toronto. Mr. Moore affirmed that YWCA Canada, also based in Toronto, would receive $277,000 in 2012-13, the final instalment in a total commitment of $552,000 towards the Y's Youth Act Up project that he first announced last year.