Commentary with Geoff deGannes
Employment Minister Jason Kenney may see the contentious Canada Jobs Grant program as a win-win situation for governments and the workforce, but there are still some unresolved issues with the new deal that could have a devastating effect on a number of existing employability programs.
The Feds have been forced to tweak the so-called Crown jewel in the 2013 federal budget to bring the provinces and territories on side just one month before the current Labour Market Agreement expires.
Once again, we have the Harper Government using a cookie cutter approach in attempting to dictate to the provinces how funding should be used. The thrust of Ottawa’s plan was to have a program designed to address the shortage of skilled tradespeople that employers were complaining about.
There is certainly no argument with that initiative. However, in doing that, they want to claw back funds to the provinces that have been used to deliver programs to the country’s most vulnerable including persons with disabilities, visible minorities and those lacking basic literacy skills.
Minister Kenney has been misleading Canadians by claiming that the existing labour market agreement programs conducted by the provinces are not working, and that they are "training for the sake of training.”
A March 2013 internal evaluation by Kenney’s own department found that nationally 86 per cent of labour market agreement programs led to employment. Nova Scotia’s programs had an 82 per cent success rate. The study concluded that the programs were overwhelmingly effective, especially considering their target clientele.
The labour market agreement was designed to help our most vulnerable citizens connect with the workforce.
While the Nova Scotia Government has agreed in principle with the Canada Jobs Grant program at the 11th hour, it does so reluctantly. Labour Minister Kelly Regan isn’t convinced employers, especially small businesspeople, will buy in to a program that requires them to kick in $5,000 dollars for each job created. She is also worried that if the job grant program does not live up to expectations, the province will be penalized by having other transfers clawed back.
Numbers released last week by the Collaborative Partnership Network, which represents nine employability agencies including CANSA in Amherst, says the loss of funding with the end of the LMA program will have a significant impact on persons with disabilities.
Two hundred people in that group are at high risk of job loss after March 31 losing $3 million to $4 million in employment income. There are 150 employers who will lose skilled employees with disabilities.
The Canada Jobs Grant appears designed to give those at the top of the skills ladder a hand up while the marginalized in our society are shut out. Again it’s a case of survival of the fittest.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.