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Federal budget's jobs training funds targeted to West: Nova Scotia minister

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's finance minister says she's concerned Ottawa's plans to forge ahead with the Canada Job Grant is targeted to the West and will result in slashed training programs in her province.

Diana Whalen said Tuesday that she needs to see more details, but fears the federal government will reduce funding of an existing job training agreement.

She said the focus of Ottawa's program would be on young people who are almost ready for jobs and need an internship in a high-demand field.

Whalen said internships are a good idea, but the program shouldn't leave behind those with lower skills in her province.

The Liberal cabinet minister also said Ottawa officials should pick up the telephone and consult with the province's labour minister on the job grants.

She also said if Ottawa alone defines which industries are most in need of training assistance and internships, it will fail to consider the East Coast's need to develop industries to retain its younger people.

"We believe people will be left behind. And certainly the amount of money that's going to be left in the labour market agreements is going to be 40 per cent of what we had previously," she said.

"It's going to shut down some of the agencies ... and other places that help people with job skills and job hunting skills."

The federal government said it will deliver its new national job training program starting April 1 through Service Canada outlets — with or without provincial involvement.

The proposed Canada Job Grant would provide $15,000 per eligible worker, divided equally among Ottawa, the provinces and employers.

Following provincial criticism, the federal government recently offered to cover the provincial portion of the grant, upping the federal share to $10,000.

However, the provinces and territories say they'll be forced to remove $300 million in federal money from existing provincially run programs for youth, aboriginals and disabled citizens.

The lack of consultation on which industries qualify as "high-demand" fields in need of interns could create a bias towards Western Canada, said Whalen.

"Every region is different. We're not all in the oil industry to the extent that other regions are. We don't all have the same resource opportunities," she said.

Overall, the finance minister said the budget had little in it that will assist the Liberal government's first budget.

"It's built more around the electoral cycle than really trying to help or stimulate the economy," she said.

Whalen said her staff has been assured in the budget lockup that a delay of about $3 billion in spending on military projects won't affect the Defence Department's shipbuilding projects in Halifax.

"That's very important to us. That project is coming up and moving forward and it's important to our economy."

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