Premiers decry federal skills training program

Ministers say the plan will cost provinces, territories more than $600 million

Thirteen of Canada’s premiers are gathering this week in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., to discuss hotbed issues pertaining to the provinces and territories — and labour sits high on their agenda.

Of particular concern is the Canada Job Grant, an initiative introduced in the federal government’s latest budget to have Ottawa and the provinces, as well as employers, earmark funding specifically for skills training and labour force development.

As a result, the premiers (known as the Council of the Federation) are seeking an opt-out option with full compensation, denouncing the plan as inflexible and costly.

The council said they are “concerned that the proposed changes would jeopardize the success of current training programs already in place, particularly those programs that help the most vulnerable people who need additional supports to find jobs…Furthermore, it is unclear if employers, particularly small businesses, will participate.”

Should the program be implemented, the council added the job grant will remove all of the funding for labour market agreement programming, and could set individual provinces and territories back more than $600 million.

“Federal funding for skills training and labour market programs must be adequate, flexible, equitable, long-term, predictable and not mandate cost matching to ensure workers can access the labour force and employers can hire the workers they need,” the council added.

The premiers are also urging a meeting of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (which includes premiers and the federal minister) to further discuss these concerns. A report on labour force development and skills training from the council is slated for release later this fall.

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