P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz says a new agreement reached on the Canada Jobs Grant will mean community organizations that receive funding through existing skills programs will be cut by 40 per cent.
The provinces reached an agreement in principle regarding the contentious new national job training program.
But Ghiz says the provinces had to agree to a 40 per cent cut to funding previously earmarked for Labour Market Agreement programs.
It was either this or a 100 per cent cut, so they agreed to the lesser impact deal, Ghiz said Friday.
“Essentially we’re minimizing the losses that are going to take place to vulnerable Canadians.”
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.
Coordinators of these organizations have been raising alarm over the last few weeks over the negative impact the potential loss of these programs could have for the most vulnerable residents of the province.
Ghiz says the deal reached between the feds and the provinces on this funding was a compromise.
“Initially when the Canada Jobs Grant was announced, we were going to lose in the province $2.1 million that goes to organizations such as the Mi’Kmaq Confederacy, East Prince Women’s Association, East Prince Senior’s Association, Tremploy,” Ghiz said.
“Through this deal we’ve been able to maintain 60 per cent of those funds. So there’s going to be a 40 per cent cut to those organizations at least, but at least we’re going to be able to maintain 60 per cent of it.”
That money will be reallocated to the new Canada Jobs Grant program.
It will offer $15,000 of training per worker. Originally, the plan was for this cost to be divided equally between Ottawa, the provinces and employers.
But after months of negotiations, Employment Minister Jason Kenney offered a final counter-proposal allowing provinces and territories full flexibility in how they contribute to the job grant.
Ghiz says the deal that has been reached will still see some of this funding coming from the private sector.
And this will be tricky for P.E.I.
“In a province like ours, where there are not a lot of large corporate entities, finding those training dollars to match is going to be difficult,” Ghiz said.
He was blunt in his assessment of this new federal job-training program.
“I don’t think the Canada Jobs Grant will work well, but I hope it does,” Ghiz said.
“My initial reaction was, if the federal government is going to introduce a new program, then they should introduce new dollars instead of taking dollars away from programs that already were in existence and were working.”
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.
Ghiz was quick to point out there will be a federal election before this happens.
“These organizations will have the opportunity to raise this issue with whoever is running federally.”