News briefs

Scotland needs Nova Scotia grads • Saskatchewan changes labour code • Ottawa changes EI rules • Stats Can says training is up • Teachers balk at performance tests • Alberta answers questions about maternity leave


ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Worried about a shortage of skilled workers, Scotland’s top Catholic cleric called on Nova Scotia university grads to start their careers in Scotland, in a convocation address at St. Francis Xavier University earlier this month. The young grads of “New Scotland” should return “to the home of your ancestors,” he urged. “Having benefited so much from your own education here in the University of St. Francis Xavier and appreciating all that Scotland has given to Canada, especially over the last 200 years, perhaps it is time for the young people of Canada to think of returning to Scotland to help rebuild that Scotland to occupy a leading role in the world of today,” he said.


REGINA — Saskatchewan is amending The Labour Standards Act to improve job-protected leaves so people can make use of federal compassionate care benefits introduced earlier this year. The province already allows workers who are ill or who require time off to care for a family member, 12 weeks of job-protected leave, but is upping the maximum leave to 16 weeks. The government also announced it will require the Minimum Wage Board to review the minimum wage at least once every two years. “Minimum wage earners should not have to wait years between reviews, nor should employers have to worry about large ‘catch up’ increases that are more likely to result from infrequent reviews,” said Labour Minister Deb Higgins.


OTTAWA — Ottawa is making it easier for seasonal workers to collect Employment Insurance. Joe Volpe, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, said three pilot initiatives will be launched and the impact on employment levels monitored. Workers in regions with unemployment levels above 10 per cent will receive an extra five weeks of EI benefits to encourage them to find more work. Volpe said the measures will cost between $230 and $270 million over the next two years and will benefit between 115,000 to 135,000 seasonal workers annually. Opposition critics accused the government of using the program to buy votes in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.


OTTAWA — One out of every three workers — or about 4.8 million employees — participated in some type of formal job-related training in 2002, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. New data from the adult education training survey shows 35 per cent of workers aged 25 to 64 underwent some formal job-related training in 2002. In 1997, 29 per cent of workers reported having taken some type of formal training. The largest increase in participation was among older workers aged 55 to 64. About 23 per cent of older workers took job-related training in 2002, up from 15 per cent in 1997. On average, workers who participated in training devoted about the same number of hours in 2002 as they had five years earlier.


TORONTO — Ontario’s Liberal government is scrapping a controversial teacher-testing program and replacing it with more opportunities for professional development. The program was proposed by the previous Progressive Conservative government but garnered an intense backlash from the province’s 115,000 teachers. They said it challenged their professionalism and put experienced people at risk of losing their jobs if they failed to live up to an arbitrary measure. Teachers were expected to take 14 courses approved by the Ontario Teachers College and be recertified every five years. A boycott was urged and only about 20 per cent of teachers were participating.


EDMONTON — Ottawa and Alberta put out a new publication with answers about maternity and parental leave for employees. Becoming a Parent in Alberta answers frequently asked questions about who is eligible for leave and benefits, how and when to apply for maternity and parental leave and benefits, and human rights protection for pregnant workers. Copies are available at

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