Fredericton museum questions snub by summer job program

A Fredericton museum is raising questions about why its application for funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program has been denied.

The Fredericton Region Museum has been employing students through the program for the past decade.

Melynda Jarratt, the museum's executive director, said that when she inquired about the rejection, she was told the museum's request didn't satisfy the program's requirements.

"I was informed in no uncertain terms that we did not make the cut, our application was not deemed to be worthy of a grant," said Jarratt.

"I want to know why the job application for a professional work experience opportunity for a young student … pursuing a career in heritage was turned down in favour of someone who's going to scoop ice cream all summer."

Increase to private business

Several other similar organizations, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, have received funding from the program.

Jarratt said she's happy other museums have gotten funding, but she takes issue with the fact that while her organization was denied funding, several private businesses in the Fredericton region were approved.

Who gets funding is a matter of public record and is available on Employment and Social Development Canada's website. That's the department that oversees the program.

The website lists landscaping, food service and manufacturing businesses in the Fredericton area as receiving funding for the jobs.

Shane Fowler/CBC

In the past, private businesses would qualify for the funding, but only at 50 per cent of wages, where non-profits and community groups would get 100 per cent.

But this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government made the decision to extend the 100 per cent funding model to private business.

Jarratt said she thinks the fact that private jobs are given 100 per cent funding means there were fewer positions to go around, and the Fredericton Region Museum was a victim of that.

COVID concerns

Jarratt said the museum was already going to be facing hard times because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a record year last year, the museum was expecting less traffic because of the pandemic and would could be a drop in visitors to the city.

Now with extra cleaning and precautions because of COVID-19, losing a staff member will make it more difficult for staff.

"Our work day is going to be even longer now because of all the restrictions,"

Jarratt said with a staff of four, even with increased reliance on volunteers, she expects the museum to have limited opening hours.

MP responds

Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin, who was not available for an interview, said in an email said changes to the program caught some organizations off guard.

"We don't know how the ranking system works, but we do [know] that changes to the program during COVID have left us with fewer Canada Summer Jobs than originally intended," Atwin said.

"Community organizations like the Fredericton Region Museum provide such value to our community and we need more Canada Summer Jobs funding for these positions."

CBC News reached out to Employment and Social Development Canada for comment but did not receive a response.