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Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney speaks at the Manning conference in Ottawa on Friday February 28, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney speaks at the Manning conference in Ottawa on Friday February 28, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ottawa gives Quebec special deal instead of Job Grant Add to ...

Quebec's Parti Québécois government has secured federal training cash for the next six years without having to sign on to Ottawa's proposed Canada Job Grant.

Tuesday's announcement comes on the eve of a of a provincial election that would have suspended provincial government decisions beyond the March 31 expiry of Ottawa's existing training deals with the provinces.

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The Quebec government praised the agreement, saying that Ottawa had fully recognized the province’s jurisdiction over skills training.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney defended his decision to offer Quebec a special deal, arguing that the province already has a system in which employers play a role in funding and making decisions about government training programs.

Mr. Kenney pointed to Quebec's existing system, which features a collaboration between government, business and unions, and that requires employers to contribute 1 per cent of payroll toward job training programs. He told reporters that process will continue under the renewed deal with added reporting requirements on how money is spent.

"It will be called the Canada-Quebec Job Fund and it reflects what is a long-standing tripartite model with the private sector," he said. "I've said from the very beginning, what we want from the Job Grant is to increase the private sector investment in skills training, we want the training leading to real jobs and we want more employers' skin in the game. Effectively, that's what the current Quebec model demonstrates."

With Quebec's decision, Mr. Kenney has now secured agreements-in-principle with all provinces and territories to renew existing training transfers. Based on a tentative deal reached last week, provinces and territories outside of Quebec will be required to fund and manage a Canada Job Grant training subsidy worth a combined $300-million. Mr. Kenney said those provinces and territories must also direct 40 per cent of a $500-million transfer to employer-led initiatives.

With an election expected to be called on Wednesday, Quebec’s Labour Minister Agnès Maltais speculated that it may have prompted Ottawa to strike a deal. However had it not been for Mr. Kenney’s understanding of Quebec’s particular situation, she added, an agreement would not have been reached.

The deal will see Ottawa transfer $115.6-million a year over six years toward training. Quebec’s 1-per-cent fee for employers raises an additional $1.2-billion a year for training.

“Mr. Kenney negotiated in good faith and showed an open mind and transparency in his efforts to reach an agreement,” she said. “Nothing has really changed. The new agreement reflects the one we had before.”

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