OTTAWA (CP) — Dozens of delegates turned their backs on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a youth labour forum in Ottawa Tuesday, using body language to show their frustrations over everything from global warming to so-called precarious work.
Several rows of young people faced the back of the room as Trudeau began taking questions from two presenters. Many delegates heckled and jeered the prime minister, prompting him to criticize the back-turners for appearing to be unwilling to listen.
Trudeau said the action sent the wrong signal to the other young people in the room.
``It is a little bit frustrating for me to come in, sit down, look forward to hearing from you, talking with you and seeing a room full of people who are standing in a way that shows they're not listening,'' Trudeau told the gathering.
``And I think it reflects poorly on everyone who does want to listen and engage.''
While Trudeau was applauded and cheered by some for defending himself, several delegates shouted back, calling the PM a ``hypocrite'' and holding signs reading ``Keep the Promise.''
Many of the delegates criticized the Liberal government for considering signing the Trans-Pacific trade deal and complained about recent comments made by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau about the jobs young people can expect to find in the future.
Morneau told Liberal party insiders in Niagara Falls on Saturday that the government needs to prepare for high turnover and short-term contracts among youth, because such jobs are here to stay.
``How do we train and retrain people as they move from job to job to job? Because it's going to happen. We have to accept that,'' Morneau said.
He has since been criticized by the opposition Conservatives and New Democrats as being ``arrogant'' and lacking an understanding of the youth unemployment problem.
Many young people at Tuesday's forum, which was organized by the Canadian Labour Congress, voiced frustration about their employment prospects and booed as Trudeau also suggested that precarious work — including jobs with no pensions — is now a fact of life.
``It's simply unacceptable when the minister of finance is saying young people need to get used to precarity, young people need to get used to not having the same opportunity as other generations have had,'' said Briana Broderick, a youth delegate representing the United Steelworkers union at the forum.
``This concept that we won't have as much as other generations had, that's really frustrating people.''
The prime minister added that the issue of precarious employment is a major concern for his government; it's why, he said, the Liberals pushed so hard to reach a recent agreement with the provinces to make improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.
The youth unemployment rate is almost double the national average and has been that way since the 2015 election campaign, when the Liberals promised to create 125,000 jobs annually for young people by spending $1.5 billion over four years on a youth employment strategy.
Employment numbers for August showed the youth jobless rate was little changed from a year ago at 13.2 per cent.
Vass Bednar, who chairs a new federal panel on youth unemployment, has warned the country could see economic and social ripples in the future without a clearer picture about where and how young people are failing in the labour market.