Justin Trudeau deflects flak over program connecting students and recent grads with volunteering options

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      The federal government's "I Want to Help" platform is up and running.

      It's part of the COVID-19 response plan, enabling postsecondary students and recent grads to receive Canada Student Service Grants of $1,000 to $5,000 for doing good works in their communities.

      "This is a win for those who need the service, while student volunteers gain work experience, skills, and money to pay their bills," Digital Government Minister Joyce Murray said in a recent email to constituents.

      But the rollout of the $912-million federal program hasn't gone as smoothly as some Liberals would have liked.

      This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under criticism because the government contracted the WE Charity, created by Marc and Craig Kielburger, to connect volunteer organizations with students and recent graduates.

      Trudeau and his wife, Sophie, have each appeared at WE Days, which feature celebrities who celebrate young people making a positive difference.

      WE Charity has also paid travel expenses for Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and she hosts a free podcast for the organization.

      Veteran NDP MP Charlie Angus expressed disgust over Twitter that the students and recent grads will only be paid $10 an hour through the program.

      Trudeau, on the other hand, has emphasized that the WE Charity was screened by civil servants and was deemed best suited to ensure that the program succeeds. And this is just one of several federal initiatives announced this week to help postsecondary students and recent grads.

      Trudeau injected an additional $186-million into the Student Work Placement Program, which received $80 million in April. That will lead to 20,000 new paid placements.

      In addition, the feds are putting more than $60 million in the Canada Summer Jobs Program, which will create 10,000 new placements for people between 15 and 30 years.

      Another 5,000 new internships will be offered through Mitacs. Then there's $40 million for the Digital Skills for Youth program and another $34 million for an additional 3,500 new job placements and internships through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.

      "Canadian students are looking for ways to make a real difference in their communities," Trudeau said earlier this week. "With these new investments, we are giving them the support and connections they need to have a positive impact during COVID-19 and gain the skills needed for future success.”