Canada Job Grant 'takes away support' from the vulnerable

Hundreds of community learning organizations across the province are cutting programming for marginalized Nova Scotians as the federal government replaces its Labour Market Agreements with the Canada Jobs Grant programs.

Head of Darmouth Learning Centre says funding change will 'impair' job prospects

About 23,600 Nova Scotians use programs funded by Labour Market Agreements. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

Hundreds of community learning organizations across the province are cutting programming for marginalized Nova Scotians as the federal government replaces its Labour Market Agreements with the Canada Jobs Grant programs. 

The Dartmouth Learning Network, which runs programs for adults without high school diplomas, is one of 373 groups losing federal funding on April 1.

With nearly a $100,000.00 in funding gone — a third of its budget — the adult learning centre will have close for five months of the year, said Lesley Dunn, the organization's executive director. 

"The people who need the greatest amount of support are going to have the support taken away from them," said Dunn. "So their chances of gaining employment are going to be further impaired." 

About 23,600 Nova Scotians use programs funded by Labour Market Agreements.

Paul Whynacht, 51, is one of the thousands of people in the province who rely on LMA-funded programs. He takes classes at the Dartmouth Learning Network to improve his reading and writing before he re-enters the workforce. 

"It's going to hurt me. I mean,  work-wise and everything else," he said. 

ReachAbility, a community grassroots agency, is cutting two of its employment programs after finding out it will lose $125,000.00 on April 1. The Redi-Set-Go and Job Developer Programs help a total of 80 clients per year. 

"Without these two programs ... a lot of our clients may not know where to go, they may not know what to do with their skill set," said Jason Fernandes, who runs reachAbility's Red-Set-Go program. 

Dunn said while the Dartmouth Learning Network was hoping the province could make up for the funding loss, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the province can't afford it. 

"We can't pick up all of the, all of the places where the federal government is divesting themselves of their responsibility," said McNeil after a Chamber of Commerce event on Monday. 

"But we're very concerned that without that federal piece, some of them will be very vulnerable." 

Provinces upset with change

The provinces are upset with the government's decision announced in last year's budget to fund the federal grant by taking $300 million out of their Labour Market Agreements which are set to expire on March 31.

The federal government has been giving the provinces $500 million under the agreements, but the provinces argue that losing 60 per cent of those funds would put programs that train "vulnerable workers" on the chopping block.

According to Employment Minister Jason Kenney, the Canada Job Grant would ensure "that taxpayers are getting a better bang for their buck."

"There are some good provincial programs, but there are also many that just don't lead to jobs. The whole point of the job grant is it will involve employers in selecting employees who they believe will have the propensity to work, getting them specific training, and the employers offer them a job at the end of it," Kenney said.

The proposed Canada Job Grant would provide workers up to $15,000 toward skills training to find a new or better job.​

Under Kenney's latest offer, the federal government would fund up to two-thirds of the grant, with employers kicking in the other third.

"Let’s not forget that the provinces will still keep a large portion of the labour market agreement funding to fund the priorities of their choice," said Alexandra Fortier, a spokesman for minister Kennedy. "If the Nova Scotia Government considers The Corporate Dartmouth Learning Network as a priority, there is no reason why this association’s funding should be reduced,"

With files from CBC News