BUDGET 2014: Tories forge ahead on job grant with or without provinces

The Canadian Press ~ OBJ
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The federal budget makes clear Ottawa will enforce the contentious Canada Job Grant in just six weeks, with or without co-operation from the provinces and territories.

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"In jurisdictions where agreements are not secured," says Tuesday's document, the government will deliver its signature national job training program starting April 1, through Service Canada.

That's to ensure "employers and Canadians in all jurisdictions have the opportunity to benefit from the grant."

The Tories will also renegotiate the $1.95 billion-a-year Labour Market Development Agreements, as promised, so that job training is matched to the demands of labour markets. The funds are specifically designed to support workers across Canada who qualify for employment insurance.

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The proposed Canada Job Grant aims to provide $15,000 per eligible worker, divided equally among the federal government, the provinces and employers. In the face of a hue and cry from the provinces, Employment Minister Jason Kenney recently offered to cover the provincial portion of grant, upping the feds' share to $10,000.

But Mr. Kenney's provincial and territorial counterparts argue they'd still be forced to remove $300 million in federal money from existing provincially run programs for youth, aboriginals and disabled citizens.

The provinces and territories have presented a united front to the government on the job grant, recently sending a counter-offer to Mr. Kenney that proposed more flexibility in how they would pay their share and less onerous requirements for corporate participation.

Mr. Kenney, who frequently laments the country's supposed shortage of skilled workers, has yet to respond to their offer though Tuesday's budget was another signal the federal government plans to press ahead unilaterally if needed.

Connecting Canadians with available jobs – from aging citizens to new immigrants and those with disabilities – while addressing the skills shortage via beefed-up training programs was a key theme of Tuesday's budget.

Among the new tools in the Conservatives' skills-training arsenal is the creation of the Canada Apprentice Loan, an expansion of the Canada Student Loans Program.

The fund will provide apprentices in so-called Red Seal trades with access to more than $100 million in interest-free loans every year to help them pay for their training.

"At least 26,000 apprentices per year are expected to apply," the budget document states.

The government starkly lays out the argument in its economic blueprint that a serious skills shortage is vexing Canadian employers, citing a litany of reports – from organizations ranging from Engineers Canada to a professional recruitment agency – to make its case.

To that end, the Tories announced a further $75 million over three years to assist unemployed older workers by renewing its so-called Targeted Initiative for Older Workers program. The initiative will also be expanded to communities "experiencing unfulfilled employer demand and-or skills mismatches," says the document.

Organizations: Service Canada, Conservatives, Targeted Initiative for Older Workers

Geographic location: Canada

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