Canada Job Grant deal with provinces close to wrapping up
TORONTO — Virtually all the provinces and territories are ready to finalize a deal on a contentious national job training program — the Crown jewel of the federal 2013 budget.
Premiers reached an agreement in principle during a conference call to talk about the proposed program after the latest federal offer over the Canada Job Grant, a source close to the talks said Thursday.
“By working together, the provinces and territories were very successful in moving the federal government in a positive direction on this important issue,” the source said. “Let’s be clear, today was only possible because provinces and territories united as one.”
Work is still being done on the final wording of the official response, but the source said there are no plans to counter Ottawa’s latest offer.
The final offer from federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney was a “good compromise,” another source told CBC News.
But Quebec hasn’t budged from its position that the Tories have no business treading on what they consider to be an area of provincial jurisdiction.
The province has maintained throughout the discussions that it wants to opt out with full compensation, or simply renew the labour market agreements it now has with Ottawa.
Nova Scotia appears to have its own reservations.
“Our businesses are quite concerned with what the ramifications of this agreement would be in terms of the dollars required for training,” said Kyley Harris, communications director for Premier Stephen McNeil..
Originally, the plan was to provide $15,000 for each eligible worker, with the cost divided equally among Ottawa, the provinces and employers.
But the provinces and territories refused, saying Ottawa would claw back federal cash for successful job-training programs run by the provinces, while forcing them to find millions more to cover their portion of the grant.
They argued a national approach to training was impractical.
Kenny’s counter-proposal, obtained by The Canadian Press, allows provinces and territories full flexibility in how they contribute to the job grant. Essentially, it means they can commit $300 million from whatever federal funds they choose, or from their own pocket.
Ottawa will continue to transfer $2.1 billion a year in training-related funds to the provinces.
The provinces wouldn’t be required to match Ottawa’s contribution to the program and would have until July 1 to start delivering the Canada Job Grant.