Letter to Minister Duguid: Canada Jobs Grant | The Ontario Federation of Labour

Letter to Minister Duguid: Canada Jobs Grant

November 4, 2013

Honourable Brad Duguid
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
3rd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, ON  M7A 1L2

Dear Minister Duguid:

We are writing to express our concern about the federal government proposal to divert funding away from existing Labour Market Agreements to a new Canada Job Grant program.

Your government has indicated that consistent funding is essential to ensure workers in Ontario get the training and supports they need to succeed and that any renegotiation of a Labour Market Agreement (LMA) must preserve and broaden Ontario’s ability to deliver a wide range of employment and training programs. We support this position and encourage your government to hold strongly to it in upcoming negotiations with the federal government.

We are concerned that diverting $300 million annually from the LMAs to a new Canada Job Grant program is a shift away from supporting vulnerable workers who need literacy training and upgrading support, towards an employer-driven short-term skills training program. This is a significant change in priorities that threatens to leave behind workers with low levels of skills and literacy.

We strongly support the main purpose of LMAs, which is to provide training and employment services to non-EI eligible individuals who do not qualify for training programs and employment services provided under Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs). Many of these workers are from underrepresented groups in the labour market, including immigrants, aboriginal people, women, older workers, and youth, and face significant barriers to employment. The literacy training and upgrading that is supported by the LMAs provides crucial skills that are the foundation for success in other training programs.

As indicated in the report prepared by the Forum of Labour Market Ministers, Building Skills Together, the LMAs are supporting successful programs. Employment Ontario for example, helped more than 290,000 people access training and find employment and connected more than 90,000 employers with qualified employees. Since 2008, Second Career has helped over 65,000 Ontarians participate in training programs. The need for these programs is not going away – laid off workers still need adjustment support and unemployed and underemployed workers still need access to these programs.

Although we welcome initiatives to increase skills development and employer investment in training, we are concerned that the Canada Job Grant program is fundamentally flawed and will not have the desired impacts for several reasons:

  • The Grant has been justified as a solution to skills shortages, but has been earmarked for “short duration training,” which will not be adequate to solve any substantive labour or skills shortages.
  • The program is employer-driven and workers cannot access it directly. This will leave out workers whose employers are not willing or able to access the program. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Grant is enough incentive for employers to increase their spending on training, but if they do not participate there is no training. This is cause for great concern as research shows a lack of employer willingness to invest in workplace training across the country.
  • It is likely that due to limited resources small and medium sized employers will have more difficulty accessing the Grant than large employers, while public sector employers appear to be ineligible for the program.
  • There is no guarantee that the Grant will go towards new training programs. Instead, it may serve to subsidize employers’ existing training programs, which has no benefit to workers who are in need of new, additional training opportunities.
  • There is no equity provision in the Grant, while most existing employer sponsored training in Canada goes to employed, male, higher educated workers in management jobs.
  • The Grant is a one-size-fits all approach that fails to provide provinces with the flexibility they need to design and deliver labour market programs to meet their local and provincial needs.

We are also concerned that the diversion of funding away from LMAs sets a dangerous precedent for the future negotiation of the LMDAs, which provide funding to the provinces for the delivery of benefits and programs for unemployed Canadians who are eligible for EI.

Going forward we strongly believe that:

  1. Any new program should be funded with new money. While new programs to increase employer investment in training are needed, the federal government must pay for them with separate and additional funds – not at the expense of existing programs that have had strong results and provide key supports for vulnerable workers.
  2. More money is needed for training. While the federal government is planning to divert funding from one place to another, we are working with our affiliates and the Canadian Labour Congress to pressure the federal government to increase funding to the LMAs and LMDAs to expand and improve the programs they support.
  3. A Labour Market Partners Forum should be established at the provincial and federal level. Better collaboration between stakeholders will lead to more effective strategies, plans and policies. One of the problems with the Grant was a lack of consultation, research and analysis, which is illustrative of the Harper government’s rigid and undemocratic approach to policy-making. Labour Market Partners Forums made up equally of representatives from government, labour and employers could provide a venue for ongoing dialogue about addressing a wide range of economic and labour market challenges and ensure that various perspectives are considered in the development of public policy.

We are encouraged that your government is taking a strong position against the diversion of funds from the LMAs. We encourage you to maintain this position in the face of upcoming pressures from the federal government to make a deal with the provinces. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to stop this proposal from going forward in order to protect crucial supports for vulnerable workers.


Ontario Federation of Labour

copy:     Premier Kathleen Wynne

Click here to download the letter.