Unpaid Internships Will Remain a Thing for At Least Another Year

Did you know legalizing marijuana wasn’t the only thing Justin Trudeau said he would do if he became Prime Minister? Indeed, there were other initiatives on his agenda.

Take unpaid internships, for example. The Liberal government’s 2017 federal budget promised to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated workplaces. That meant interns would be treated as regular employees rather than the free labour grey area they remain to date. The idea was first considered four years ago.

Now, it won’t be until fall 2019 before the final set of regulations to end unpaid internships will be unveiled.

Inspiring young voters was a key strategy during the Liberal government’s election campaign. With regulations on unpaid internships set to kick in shortly before the next election, the delay appears to be a case of holding onto a strong card for when it matters.

Niki Ashton, an NDP jobs critic, accused the Liberals of being “all talk and no action” – surprise! – and doubts the necessity of holding out until late 2019. “There’s no excuse for not making a change sooner,” he said.

As recently as 2015, a Liberal proposal would green light unpaid work for up to four months full-time or up to a year part-time. Two years later, following strong opposition and a mandate by Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, the federal government released its second budget bill, calling for the elimination of unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors that are not part of a formal educational program.

And now we’re here, still waiting.

“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.”