Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa Should Drop Bully Tactics on Job Training

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa Should Drop Bully Tactics on Job Training

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa should drop bully tactics on job training

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Feb. 18:

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says his government wants an "informed national dialogue" on skills training. But until he and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stop using threats and ultimatums, no one is likely to join the conversation.

A year ago, Flaherty announced a new job training program, the Canada Job Grant, designed to address the shortage of skilled tradespeople that employers were complaining about. It would be jointly financed by Ottawa, the provinces and participating businesses. To ensure that the provinces paid their share, the federal government intended to wrench back 60 per cent of the training funds it had placed under their control, forcing them to cancel their own programs and forsake the hardest-to-employ - individuals who lacked basic literacy, people with disabilities, at-risk youth and new immigrants.

All 10 provinces were dead-set against it. The private sector was lukewarm.

Initially it looked as if Ottawa was willing to negotiate. In a show of good faith, Kenney offered to change the policy if the provinces presented specific proposals. They worked together and came up with an alternative. Under their plan, the provinces would be allowed to pay their share in cash or in kind, meaning they could provide facilities and equipment for the training and cover the transport and accommodation of the participants. The deadline to finalize the plan would be extended by six months and the program would be subject to review after two years to ensure it was working.

They got their answer in last week's budget. Ottawa would stick to its April 1 deadline, with or without the provinces. When Quebec Premier Pauline Marois objected, Flaherty dug in his heels: "The money that is being put into job creation, job training in Canada is not provincial tax money, it is federal tax money. And it's not for a provincial government to tell the federal government how to spend federal tax money."

Kenney, who has taken issue with Flaherty on other issues, suggested there might be room for flexibility, but fell back into line within 48 hours, grumbling that that the stand-off over the Canada Job Grant had "sucked the oxygen" out of the bigger debate about how to tackle the skills gap facing the country. …

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