© Guardian photo
Premier Robert Ghiz
P.E.I. premier fears program cuts to marginalized Islanders
After months of on and off negotiations, a Canada Job Grant program has been agreed to between the federal and provincial governments. Or at least, for the time being, between Ottawa and all the provinces with the exception of Quebec.
The agreement-in-principle allows the provinces and territories a lot more flexibility in how they fund the Canada Job Grant, a previous sticking point during months of negotiations. Provinces feared taking their $300-million share of the job grant entirely from the so-called Labour Market Agreement, a federal transfer that pays for job training for the country’s most marginalized citizens, those who don’t qualify for employment insurance.
And, as is so often the case when it comes to federal-provincial agreements, there is a difference of opinion between the two sides on how great the new deal is.
Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says it’s a “win-win for both sides.”
Concerns remain, nonetheless, that the deal still represents a cut in funding to the provinces and territories. Among those expressing concern is P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, who said the new agreement will mean community organizations that receive funding through existing skills programs will be cut by 40 per cent. In the end, he said it was either agree to a deal with a 40 per cent reduction or face a 100 per cent cut, so they agreed to the lesser impact deal. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger also has expressed similar concerns.
Programs funded by the Labour Market Agreement (LMA) in P.E.I. help some of the most marginalized Islanders, including people with disabilities and seniors. The federal-provincial negotiations of the past few months have left those people alarmed about the potential impact on them and their programs. Some of those organizations include the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, East Prince Women’s Association, East Prince Seniors Association and Tremploy.
Although a deal appears in place, it will be some time before it is fully implemented. The funding reallocation for the LMA will be rolled out over the next few years.
The first year will see a 10 per cent reduction, moving to the full 40 per cent in 2016-17. So hopefully those organizations and groups negatively impacted will have time to secure other areas of funding as needed.
On the plus side, it is positive to see the federal and provincial governments able to successfully negotiate an agreement. The track record of compromise between the two levels of governments hasn’t been great the past few years.
Islanders are watching
Anyone trying to determine the level of interest in the deep-water irrigation debate need look no further than the front page of the Friday, Feb. 28 Guardian. It depicted a large group of concerned Islanders sitting in on a P.E.I. legislature committee meeting. Anyone who regularly attends legislature committee meetings will tell you a roomful of members of the public is unusual, with many of the meetings being long of words and lacking in excitement.
But the debate over whether the moratorium on deep-water wells should be lifted is a red hot one on P.E.I., one which is attracting interest from individuals and organizations right across the province. Many see it as crucial to the province’s long-term access to clean water and they are paying rapt attention to how the debate is unfolding.