Ryan Leef, Member of Parliament for Yukon

Dear Ryan,

Last month Canada’s territorial and provincial premiers met to discuss the Canada Jobs Grant (CJG), which the federal government wants to launch with their co-operation. The premiers are not happy.

The CJG is proposed as a replacement for the Labour Market Agreement (LMA) which was designed to “increase labour market participation of groups that are under-represented in Canada’s labour force and to enhance the employability and skills of the labour.” It was a bilateral agreement with up to $500 million in transfer payment support from the federal government. It was a way to devolve labour management to the provinces and territories and to increase the number of skilled workers in Canada.  On the whole it worked, in large part because it could be tailored to the unique needs of each jurisdiction. 

The purpose of the Canada Jobs Grant is “to ensure that skills training funds are being used to help Canadians obtain the qualifications they need to get jobs in high-demand fields.” With this grant, the cost of training, up to $15,000 per trainee, would be split three ways between the provinces and territories, the federal government and employers. Since small and medium-sized businesses cannot afford these training costs, the only employers to benefit from this program would be large corporations, many of them foreign-owned and most of them in the resource extraction business. Is this another indirect subsidy to the fossil fuel industry?

The provinces and territories would see $300 million of the $500 million, once dedicated to the LMA, clawed back. They are also being asked to contribute an additional $300 million to support the CJG. This does not include the costs of administering this program which the provinces and territories would be asked to undertake. As Rick Karp from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has pointed out, this fund won’t cover the costs of travel and housing that are necessary for trainees from remote communities.

Where are the study groups or pilot programs that support the Conservative government’s claim that this will bring jobs and prosperity to Canadians? Are there documented programs of similar design in other countries? The federal government didn’t even bother to consult with the premiers about this program.   

The Conservative government was so confident that the premiers would sign off on the Canada Jobs Grant that it sent out advertisements as though it was a done deal. The prime-time ads are estimated to cost “hundreds of thousands” according to the National Post. Citizens complained to Advertising Standards Canada about the ads because they did not supply relevant information. The advertisements were pulled before they could be listed on the council’s online “Ad Complaints Report” as being in breach of Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

Ryan, as well as the television advertisements, there were two Ten Percenters with the same misinformation on them. Your member’s expenses will be open to public scrutiny for this year and, since I am still collecting Ten Percenters, it will be very easy to figure out exactly how much of our money you spent on misleading advertisement.

So why is the Conservative government so enamoured with their Canada Jobs Grant program? Are they ideologically averse to helping those on the bottom of the economic totem pole? Are large industries seen as the only constituency that counts? Is it because they don’t receive political currency from the Labour Market Agreement while they could claim all of the credit from the CJG? If they insist on going down this my-way-or-the-highway road without consulting with the provinces and territories or listening to education and labour experts, the Conservative government may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of taking all of the blame.

Now that the premiers have refused to co-operate, the federal government is approaching the industrial sector hoping that the Canada Jobs Grant could work in a bilateral way. I haven’t heard that there is much enthusiasm there, either.

Perhaps if Mr. Harper had held a real job before he became a politician he would have understood, as a result of hands on experience, the wisdom of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The Labour Market Agreement provided funding that helped train unskilled workers in the Yukon. 

The territorial government has spoken out against the CJG. The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce agrees that this is a bad deal for Yukon. Will you speak out against the Canada Job Grant?

May you walk on the high road.

Respectfully yours.

Linda Leon

PS: Here is a link to The Training Wheels Are Off by Michael Mendelson and Noah Zon at the Caledon Institute of Public Policy.  http://www.caledoninst.org/Publications/PDF/1013ENG.pdf

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Linda Leon

Linda Leon is an artist and writer living in Whitehorse.