Jason Kenney and his provincial counterparts are in the middle of a protracted dispute about job training. Kenney, the Employment Minister, is pushing hard to implement a federal job grant that would reshape training across the country. The provinces want to retain more control on the file. This is a well-known dispute that’s played out in newspapers.
Today, Liberal MP Judy Sgro rose in the House and, employing the same premise as many an opposition parliamentarian past, went after the government’s inability to work with provinces. Kenney responded with what might be the most succinct case for the job grant he’s made to date in the Commons. Kenney emphasized the employers’ role in the fledgling program.
“We’ve been having good conversations with the provinces about how we can ensure they continue with some of their good programs, while at the same time moving toward more employer-led training where there is more employer investment in skills development—and where jobs are guaranteed at the end of the training.”
Employers represent an important pillar of the prospective job grants, given that they would contribute 33 per cent of each grant—up to $5,000 per worker. And Kenney positioned employers as the central piece of the program. But that part of the discussion has largely been lost in the federal-provincial squabble over which taxpayer money should foot the rest of the bill.
What does business really think of the job grant? John Geddes, Maclean’s bureau chief in Ottawa, has reported reaction in that sector as somewhat mixed. Last summer, when New Brunswick Premier David Alward claimed businesses largely opposed the federal plan, Geddes noted a list of groups that supported Kenney’s endeavour. Then, earlier this year, he spoke to a number of other groups, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and provincial chambers of commerce, that remained skeptical.
If the Canada Job Grant becomes a real thing, the program won’t make smaller government, but it will allow the feds to take credit for job creation while shifting a chunk of financial burden to the private sector—whether or not businesses are happy with the plan.