The job grant that might just survive

Provinces are countering the federal proposal for skills training funding

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Adrian Wyld/CP

“The bulk of the funding is still coming from that (Labour Market Agreements) program, and that’s on the backs of our marginalized, out-of-work Canadians, and that’s the piece that provinces and territories simply cannot accept.” —Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities

Justin Trudeau cut his caucus in half. Justin Bieber turned himself in to Toronto Police. Rob Ford stood accused of ordering a jailhouse beating. Three people who can make headlines by blinking went far beyond the call of duty. Anyone in Canada who screwed up yesterday and wanted no one to notice picked a good day to screw up. Thanks, Justins. Thanks, Mr. Mayor.

Other things happened. Employment Minister Jason Kenney, he who was told last summer to sell an unpopular skills training proposal to a set of provinces that was universally dismayed by the idea, quietly marched towards achieving the nearly impossible. Kenney and the provinces have spent weeks counter-proposing each others’ ideas for the Canada Job Grant, the federal government’s proposed replacement for skills training transfer payments it hands to provinces each year.

What’s handy is that, while the two sides aren’t negotiating in plain sight, they are letting reporters in on the bartering and we can all read about the latest in today’s paper. The first federal proposal, immediately rejected, offered $300 million to provinces for a Canada Job Grant program that would train workers for new jobs, to the tune of $5,000 per employee—and ask that provinces and employers match those funds. The second federal proposal, made late last year, told the provinces that the feds would cover their portion of the funds. The provinces balked, saying the feds were still offering less money and removing provincial flexibility on training programs.

This week, we learn that the provinces are sending a new counter-proposal to Kenney’s office. Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, Brad Duguid, says the united provinces now accept the government’s firm offer of $300 million a year for the job grant. But, as Bill Curry reports in The Globe and Mail, they “want changes in terms of which transfers are reduced.”

Don’t cut from the existing Labour Market Agreements, Duguid says, because that money helps the most vulnerable workers who don’t qualify for employment insurance. Cut from the Labour Market Development Agreements, a separate annual fund that gives money to people who qualify for EI. Kenney hasn’t received the proposal, and isn’t saying a word about it.

Whatever the merits of the new provincial ask, the negotiation continues, Kenney’s work continues, and the nearly impossible might become possible.

ABOVE THE FOLD

Globe: Justin Trudeau expelled 32 senators from his caucus.

Post: What Trudeau’s move actually means for the Senate, or Liberals, is unclear.

Star: Rob Ford stands accused of ordering the jailhouse beating of his sister’s ex-husband.

Citizen: Trudeau’s gambit created confusion among some members of his party.

CBC: The halving of the Liberal caucus may have little practical effect.

CTV: Justin Bieber turned himself in to Toronto Police and faces an assault charge.

NNW: Liberals were surprised to learn the ejected Senators would still call themselves Liberals.

MOSTLY MISSED

Near: Monarch butterflies, currently in Mexico for the winter, are at their lowest-ever levels.

Far: Mohamed Fahmy, the Egyptian-Canadian journalist jailed in Cairo, was formally charged.




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The job grant that might just survive

  1. Whatever the merits of the new provincial ask, the negotiation continues, Kenney’s work continues, and the nearly impossible might become possible.

    Well the feds kinda HAVE to create a program of some sort now, don’t they? They’ve spent millions of dollars creating advertising for this program, and the ads are already airing despite the fact that the program doesn’t exist yet. They really MUST create a program now, or admit that they really did waste millions of dollars on T.V. ads for a program that they never even created.

    • The impossible was getting the provinces to contribute 300 million of their own money. Kenney can do whatever he likes with the money Ottawa contributes. Remember Flaherty unilaterally setting transfers ? Its not a ‘negotiation’ when one side is giving money to the other.

      So no, I don’t think there was ever any danger of the program not existing. Cart before the horse perhaps.

      • Yes, I agree that the possibility of a program never existing is likely much more remote than the quote I was responding to makes it sound.

        That said, it still seems to me that the time for the government to pay for ads inviting the citizenry to visit a website to learn more about a program is AFTER said program exists, not before.

      • If it’s not a negotiation then why are there proposals and counter-proposals? That sounds pretty much like negotiation to me.

        Remember, it’s not just the money that’s being negotiated.. it’s the public response. Sure, the feds can go ahead no matter what.. assuming they want to encourage the kind of provincial resentment that has banished the Liberals from Alberta since the PET. However, assuming they *don’t* like the idea of pissing off the provinces.. there’s room to negotiate.

        Also notice, nothing in the above article suggests that the provinces have agreed to contribute a dime. Just that they’re willing to have some (different) programs cut in order to keep quiet while the feds change things.

        • What I am trying to express is that there is a difference between a normal negotiation where something is being exchanged by two parties and this situation. Its more akin to negotiating terms of surrender. That qualitative difference is obvious, call it a negotiation it you like – semantics.

          And I agree, the provinces won’t and probably never were going to pony up 300 million. That’s their money. But this is the feds money.

          It would be a huge stretch to call this PET Alberta worthy. It would be a stretch to call it Martin/Harper EI Maritimes worthy. This is about Kenney looking competent and avoiding some minor headaches.

          All the uproar over this would probably pail in comparison to the routine volleys that Sousa and Flaherty exchange. Public really, really doesn’t care and no amount of complaining could make them care. Its one training program replacing another.

  2. It looks to me like the Provinces have a winning proposal, it will be interesting to see if Kenney is willing to accept winning on their terms.

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