The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 11/8/2013 3:02 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 11/8/2013 5:46 PM
TORONTO - There may not have been much love in the room, but it appears the Harper Conservatives are opening diplomatic ties with the provinces and territories over a contentious federal job training program.
Canada's employment ministers didn't reach an agreement on the Canada Job Grant when they met Friday in Toronto, but they agreed to keep talking.
While Quebec insists it wants no part of the program, other provinces said they're seeing more willingness from federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney to listen to their concerns.
It's the first time the ministers have met in four years — which is progress in itself, said Manitoba's Theresa Oswald.
"Minister Kenney was here and he knew there wasn't necessarily love around the room about the Canada Job Grant," she said.
"But he came, he was open and he used the word 'flexibility,' I believe, with sincerity."
The federal Conservatives want to divert about $300 million — or 60 per cent — of what they currently give the provinces and territories to the Canada Job Grant.
It would provide a grant of $15,000 per worker, with the federal government, provinces and territories and employers each kicking in $5,000.
But the provinces and territories oppose it, saying it won't give them enough flexibility to direct the money where it's needed most and could jeopardize existing provincially-run programs that help disadvantaged groups.
They say they'd have to come up with more than $600 million to maintain their current programs as well as match the cost of the Canada Job Grant.
Ottawa needs to satisfy the provinces' concerns if it wants to launch the program, said Ontario minister Brad Duguid.
"The fact of the matter is, the provinces and territories are very united on this," said Ontario minister Brad Duguid.
"We will not fund or support any program that funds a new federal program on the backs of our vulnerable workers. We've been very clear on that."
Kenney said the federal government already spends billions of dollars on job and skills training programs for groups that are "under-represented" in the labour force, like aboriginals, youth, the disabled and older Canadians.
The Canada Job Grant could be used to provide training and jobs for some of those workers, he said.
"I hear the provinces in that respect," Kenney said. "I don't dismiss their concern, but my response is that there are other ways in which we address precisely those Canadians."
Kenney said he's willing to listen to their concerns about shaving $300 million from the existing Labour Market Agreement that expires at the end of March. But he wouldn't say whether he would budge on the figure.
He said he's also willing to be flexible on the contribution ratios of the program, which the provinces complained would exclude small businesses who couldn't afford it.
So long as a business puts in at least 15 per cent, the provinces could have more say in how to spread out the costs so small businesses won't be left out, Kenney said.
It was a "full and frank" talk that will continue in the coming months to hammer out a deal before the end of March, he said.
New Brunswick minister Jody Carr said it was encouraging to finally have a face-to-face discussion with Kenney.
"We certainly feel that there is a new openness to continue discussions and to continue to look at flexible options so that we — provinces and the federal government — can jointly work together to meet the needs of our labour force," he added.
But Quebec minister Agnes Maltais said there was no progress made at the table.
"We want a renewal of the Labour Market Agreement, the way it is now," she said in French.
"We're prepared to revisit the objectives with Mr. Kenney ... but the money has to flow to Quebec and Quebec will run the programs."
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Israel calls up another 16,000 reserves
Manitoba tribute for a Canadian icon
Broken Bells delivers groovy, melancholy fun
Heavily armed police unit surrounds North End home
Man dies in rollover
Chiefs vote to keep Nepinak as leader of the AMC
Stern sees Sterling saga ending well, lauds Silver
Options being considered for Arlington Bridge include tearing it down
Cut mosquito-fogging buffer zones: Steeves
H&M opening in Winnipeg on Sept. 10
O'Shea plays down praise he's getting for turning the Bombers around
Chief objects to posting salaries online
The Pinkertons detective series to be shot in Winnipeg
'Flower Drum Song' lead James Shigeta dies at 85
Former Bomber pleads guilty to fraud charges
Peace rally to be held in silence
City refunding $1 million in photo radar tickets because of missing words on tickets
Police still probing girl's 1985 disappearance
August civic holiday to be named after national hero
Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area
Arrest made in city's 14th homicide
The search for a Billy Elliot to begin
Hamilton, former co-chair of AJI, dies
Last crew member of Enola Gay flight dies
Woods hopeful of more good memories at Firestone
Lawyer apologizes at sex assault sentencing
Ohio: 2nd fine levied against prison food vendor
Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail
Folk festival over, but concert series continues
Cargill to close beef plant, cites cattle shortage
House GOP scrambles for votes on border bill
Contract dispute delays 'Big Bang' production
Police chief, nemesis of Rob Ford, losing job
Man charged after alleged online chats with teen
Supreme Court to rule on Mr. Big stings
Nadal out of Rogers Cup with wrist injury
WECC to get F---ed Up on Sept. 23
Kelsey Grammer won't endorse killer's release
Figure in '80s payola probe faces NY gambling case
Condo construction starts on former Restaurant Dubrovnik site