Picking prisons ahead of citizenship

TheTelegram.com – Opinion/Letters
Published on April 5, 2012.    David Jerome

It should come as no surprise that the Harper Conservatives used their first majority-government budget to kill the Katimavik program.

Despite the fact that Katimavik is a highly valuable program that more than pays for itself, the government has shut it down for what can only be ideological reasons.

Long track record

Katimavik is the country’s oldest and largest youth engagement program, open to all Canadians aged 17-21.

Participants spend six months volunteering in two regions of the country. Groups of 11 participants live together in one house (along with a staff member), where they share all household duties.

Outside of their full-time volunteering commitments, participants also engage in daily programing on themes that include healthy living, environmental awareness, cultural awareness, practising both official languages and engaging as a citizen.

The federal budget states that Katimavik is being cut because it serves, “a very small number of participants at an excessive per-person cost.” (page 218)

Ignoring the facts

A 2006 report called Social and Economic Impact Study of the Katimavik Program, however, demonstrated that Katimavik actually generates excess value in the communities where it operates.

This study, which was performed by a professional consulting firm and is available to download from the Katimavik website, measured the value of participants’ volunteer efforts and the secondary benefits that community partners recognize from association with Katimavik (such as an increase in donations, etc.).

The report found that for every $1 Katimavik spends, host communities receive a value of $2.20. (page 40)

Most of this value is invested in rural and remote communities, where Katimavik runs most of its programs.

Facts don’t matter

But, as we’ve seen before, this Conservative government doesn’t let facts get in its way when making policy decisions.

Empowering Canadian youth is clearly not a priority for our current federal government — they’d rather build more prisons.

David Jerome, St. John’s

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