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Kenney agrees to hear out provinces' latest jobs-grant proposal

Employment Minister Jason Kenney speaks in the House of Commons on Jan. 30, 2014.

SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Another federal-provincial meeting over the proposed Canada Job Grant ended on a positive note Tuesday, with provinces saying federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has agreed to discuss their latest offer with his cabinet colleagues.

Mr. Kenney met in Toronto with three representatives of the provinces as part of ongoing talks to launch a new skills training program.

"Minister Kenney committed to us that he would take the new alternative proposal from all provinces and territories to his cabinet colleagues," said Allen Roach, PEI's Innovation and Advanced Learning Minister, in a statement. Mr. Roach is co-chair of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers.

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Provincial labour ministers have said the counterproposal includes a call for more flexibility in terms of how they manage the training money they receive from Ottawa.

According to a report by Radio-Canada, which says it obtained a copy of the latest proposal, the provinces envision a six year deal with a promise to review the program after the first two years. The provinces also want the program to start Oct. 1, six months later than originally planned.

Mr. Kenney's spokesperson Nick Koolsbergen declined to confirm details of the counteroffer. He said Ottawa is hopeful an agreement can be reached to launch the grant.

"The federal government will take the time to carefully review the province's latest proposal," he said in an e-mail.

The Canada Job Grant was first announced in the 2013 budget, with a promise that it would be in place as of April 1, 2014. It was originally proposed as a grant worth up to $15,000 that individuals could use to receive training toward a specific job.

The cost of each grant was to have been split evenly between Ottawa, a province and a business looking to hire. Through negotiations, Ottawa has agreed to waive the provincial requirement to provide matching funds.

However the provinces continued to oppose the fact that Ottawa planned to pay for its share of the grants via a 60 per cent cut to a $500-million a year transfer to the provinces for Labour Market Agreements that are aimed at training vulnerable workers, including aboriginal people, disabled people, immigrants, youth and older workers.

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