The job grant that might just survive

Provinces are countering the federal proposal for skills training funding

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.


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.


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.