If the provinces and territories have their way, the controversial Canada Job Grant would be delayed six months and phased in over a longer period and would be subject to review after two years, according to a copy of their counter-offer obtained by Radio-Canada.
Ministers Shirley Bond from British Columbia, Jody Carr from New Brunswick and Allen Roach from P.E.I. presented federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney with their counter-proposal to his Canada Job Grant in Toronto Tuesday.
- Canada Job Grant counter-offer to be sent by provinces
- Provinces remain united over Canada Job Grant concerns
While no deal was reached today, both sides said the meeting was "productive," in separate statements issued Tuesday evening.
"The federal government will take the time to carefully review the provinces' latest proposal," Nick Koolsbergen, Kenney's director of communications, said in a written statement, adding that the minister is still hopeful a deal can be reached by April 1.
The provinces said in a statement issued by P.E.I's Roach, "our new proposal is built on a principled approach — encouraging employer involvement in training while protecting vulnerable Canadians, which provides more flexibility on how the program would be funded, including more flexibility for small and medium-sized businesses."
As CBC News reported last week, under the provinces' counter-offer, Ottawa would give the provinces other options in the way the grant is funded and give employers more flexibility to participate in the grant.
The provinces currently receive $500 million a year in funding from Ottawa under existing Labour Market Agreements set to expire on March 31. But under the proposed Canada Job Grant, the provinces would lose $300 million, or nearly 60 per cent, of Ottawa's contribution.
In a copy of the provinces' counter-offer dated Jan. 28 and marked "confidential" which was obtained by Radio-Canada, the controversial grant would be paid for through three funding streams, including the Labour Market Development Agreement and other sources of revenue.
The provinces would like to see the Canada Job Grant pushed back to Oct. 1, instead of April 1, and would gradually see it phased in over a period of six years instead of four.
The provinces would also have the right to review the grant after two years and "make required changes or move funds to programs or services that are yielding better results."
All provinces and territories would be allowed to opt out with full compensation — a position Quebec has been advocating since the federal government introduced the grant in last year's federal budget.
The original Canada Job Grant plan would have provided up to $15,000 per worker toward skills training to find a new or better job, with the provinces and employers matching the government's contribution of $5,000.
Kenney made a concession and under his latest offer, the federal government would fund up to $10,000, with employers kicking in the other $5,000.
Under the province's counter-offer, employers would still contribute up to one-third of the grant, but would be allowed to do so "in cash or in kind."
Eligible "in kind" expenses would include equipment or facilities used directly to provide training, transportation costs, accommodation expenses for out of town training, and wages.
Ministers Bond and Carr are at today's meeting with Kenney because British Columbia and New Brunswick were appointed to study the Canada Job Grant by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as head of the Council of the Federation.
Kenney and P.E.I.'s Roach are the co-chairs of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers, a group that meets regularly to discuss labour market matters.
Candice Bergen, the minister of state for social development, told members of Parliament during question period on Tuesday that Kenney was currently meeting with his provincial counterparts in Toronto.
The Opposition New Democrats asked her whether Kenney was going to accept the provinces' counter-offer.
"We have listened to the provinces as well as stakeholders and we have built a number of flexibilities into the Canada Job Grant," Bergen said.
NDP finance critic Peggy Nash asked whether Kenney would then "pull the chute on his failed Canada Job Grant or at the very least allow the provinces to opt out?"
Bergen said the Canada Job Grant meets the needs of employers, citing the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which says the proposed grant "will involve the employer in a more fundamental way."
The federal government has already spent $2.5 million in advertising to promote the proposed Canada Job Grant.