Canada Jobs Grant does not work for Manitoba

By Molly McCracken

Re: “Lets put the jobs-grant idea to work”, Winnipeg Free Press, January 17, 2014

The Canada Jobs Grant will not work for people who face barriers to employment, especially Aboriginal Manitobans. As Shauna Mackinnon wrote in The Canada Jobs Grant: Perpetuating Aboriginal Exclusion, the new federal program will take money away from successful programs that are helping unemployed people get the training they require to move into the labour force. In Manitoba, the changes remove $11 million federal dollars from programs that do important pre-employment education and training with Aboriginal students and lead to career-track jobs that pay a living wage. Even with the new offer from the federal government, which eliminates the requirement for provincial matching contributions to the Canada Jobs Grant, the provinces are still forced to decide to back-fill these programs or eliminate them. Federal off-loading to the provinces persists.

The Canada Jobs Grant requires matching funding from employers, and shifts job training priorities to employers. This may work in larger manufacturing centres like southern Ontario, but will not work in Manitoba. Manitoba’s relatively low unemployment rate – which does not include many workers who have given up looking for a job, or who have never looked for one – requires a different approach: bringing excluded Manitobans into the labour force.

Another reason Manitoba’s unemployment rate is so low is that it does not include on-reserve First Nations. Nonetheless, Aboriginal people are the fastest growing segment of our population, and they unfortunately experience higher than average rates of unemployment due to systemic barriers such as lower high school and post secondary graduation rates. With the federal government systemically under-funding on-reserve education, the CJG changes add insult to injury. These changes contribute to already chronic under-funding of supports to assist Aboriginal people to achieve their full potential.

Moreover, programs funded by the existing Labour Market Agreement (LMA) and are key to Manitoba’s All Aboard Poverty Reduction Strategy. These changes will undermine the Province’s efforts to address poverty through employment and dilute the effectiveness of the investment that has already gone into this strategy

In the aforementioned editorial, Serge Buy, CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges writes that Canadians should put aside concerns over the process used to create the Canada Jobs Grant, however the process is the reason why this program is doomed to fail to build Manitoba’s work force. The federal government did not consult with the provinces. In a rare show of solidarity, Premiers are unanimous in their criticism; the provinces were happy with the previous program as each province had room to allocate funding to regional labour force priorities and were able to craft complementary local policies to augment the benefit from the program. Perhaps Mr. Buy does not want a closer look at the process because it would show that the Association of Career Colleges he represents stands to benefit tremendously from this new program, as the federal changes require employers to go through a certified employment agencies like the ones he represents.

Also see previous CCPA MB Blog Program to Subsidize Business at the Expense of the Unemployed

Molly McCracken is the Director for CCPA-Manitoba