Liberal promise to set strict rules for unpaid interns pushed to 2019

Officials now say it will be fall of 2019 — right when the next federal election is expected

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won’t make good on their vow to crack down on unpaid internships until next year — almost four years after the issue first landed on the federal government’s agenda.

In the 2017 budget, the Liberals promised to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated workplaces — the only exception being student placements required as part of a school course. Interns would be treated like regular employees, with the same work hours and under the same safety regulations.

Officials now say it will be fall of 2019 — right when the next federal election is expected — when they unveil the final set of regulations, at which time those groups pushing for an end to unpaid internships will find out when the rules come into force.

Cabinet will have the final say on when the rules come into effect.

“Once the legislation was amended, most people assumed you couldn’t do this anymore,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“I don’t know why they haven’t put forth the regulations on this because they were very clear. Immediately after they got elected, they acted on it.”

Since coming to office, the Liberals have touted spending aimed at creating more jobs for young people — notably doubling funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program, and putting money into creating internships and apprenticeships — hoping to meet campaign promises that won over many young voters.

NDP jobs critic Niki Ashton accused the Liberals of being “all talk and no action” on an issue of vital importance to young Canadians.

“There’s no excuse for not making a change sooner.”

The previous Conservative government promised changes to labour laws to protect unpaid interns as part of their 2015 budget, but the rules were never implemented.

The Liberals revived the proposal in December 2015, weeks after taking office, and faced opposition to its plan to allow unpaid work for up to four months full-time or up to a year part-time. The Canadian Intern Association dropped out of consultations, students mounted protests and labour groups demanded the whole process be restarted.

When Patty Hajdu became labour minister in early 2017, her mandate letter called for updating labour standards “to address emerging issues such as unpaid internships.”

The government’s second budget bill last year deleted part of the Canada Labour Code that provided an allowance for unpaid internships in certain cases, but left an existing exception for educational placements intact.

The department overseeing the new regulations plans to hold a new round of consultations this fall to coincide with talks about new unpaid leaves for family reasons, traditional Indigenous practices, and victims of family violence.

“While we’re encouraged that the federal government is finally moving forward on addressing unpaid internships within federally regulated employers, we’re also concerned that the timelines are excessive and push any concrete action into 2019 or 2020,” said Andrew Langille, counsel for the Canadian Intern Association.

“The commitment to tackle unpaid internships was made during the 2015 election and one would think four years would be enough time to tackle a straightforward regulatory change.”

Ashton said some schools are avoiding unpaid internships for students. Even so, she said, some young people believe unpaid work is the only way they can get job experience and a foothold in the labour market.

Last week’s latest jobs figures from Statistics Canada showed an 11.7 per cent unemployment rate for workers age 15 to 24 — almost twice the national average of six per cent and up from May’s rate of 11.1 per cent.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

ICE wrap up: ICE get one point out of six this weekend

It was a busy weekend for the Kootenay ICE with three games… Continue reading

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Columbia Basin Trust announces grant for technology upgrades

The deadline for organizations to apply is Dec. 17

Tie Lake dam project substantially completed

$450,000 project raises height of the dam; lake levels won’t be affected, says RDEK.

Homicide victim found under B.C. bridge identified as Hells Angels member

Chad John Wilson was one of four men arrested in Spain in 2013 on allegations of smuggling cocaine.

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Most Read