Employment Minister Jason Kenney has made two more concessions in his negotiations with the provinces and territories over the controversial Canada Job Grant, CBC News has learned.
- EXCLUSIVE | Canada Job Grant requires more time, maximum flexibility, provinces say
- EXCLUSIVE | Canada Job Grant counter-offer includes 2-year review
Kenney sent the provinces his final offer on Friday in which he agreed to give the provinces maximum flexibility in the way the grant is funded and delay the start date by three months, from April 1 to July 1, according to a source close to the negotiations.
In the provinces' counter-offer to Kenney, obtained by Radio-Canada, they asked Ottawa to allow them to choose where the money for the grant would come from.
The federal government currently gives the provinces $500 million a year in funding under existing Labour Market Agreements, but Ottawa wants to take $300 million of that and put it toward the creation of the Canada Job Grant.
As CBC News reported on Feb. 4, the provinces have suggested the grant be funded through various funding streams including the Labour Market Agreements, the Labour Market Development Agreements, and other sources of revenue including their own.
Their counter-offer also asked Ottawa to give them more time, an additional six months, to implement the grant which the government wanted to have up and running by April 1. In Friday's response, Kenney has offered to delay the start date by three months.
Not only did Kenney have to take the offer to cabinet, he also had to convince other players to agree to the "huge" concessions, a source close to the negotiations told CBC News.
While the minister was not immediately available for comment, his press secretary confirmed Kenney's final offer was meaningful enough the government hopes it will lead to a deal.
"The federal government has significantly restructured its proposal based on provincial feedback," Alexandra Fortier, told CBC News on Friday.
"We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached on the Canada Job Grant, to ensure skills training actually leads to a guaranteed job and employers are investing more in job training," Fortier said.
Kenney has given the provinces until the end of the month to accept or decline his final offer.
The federal minister made his first concession in December when he agreed to fund the provinces' share of the grant, contributing up to $10,000 of the $15,000 grant.
Provincial ministers to discuss Kenney's offer
While CBC News has not seen a copy of Kenney's final offer, several provinces said they had received it and were in the process of reviewing it.
In a telephone interview with CBC News on Friday, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Shirley Bond said she had received the offer and even had a chance to speak briefly with Kenney about it on Friday.
Bond said her department will spend the next day or two analyzing the offer and its implications before consulting with her provincial counterparts in a conference call "early next week."
"We are cautiously optimistic," Bond said.
Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of training, colleges and universities, said his government was reviewing the offer to see what implications it would have on skills training programs that serve "vulnerable workers."
"We look forward to providing further comment on this once we have gained a thorough understanding of the offer and have had the opportunity to consult with provincial and territorial counterparts," Duguid said in a written statement Friday.
Allen Roach, the P.E.I. minister responsible for overseeing the grant, said "I look forward to reviewing and discussing it with my provincial and territorial colleagues, as well as with our respective premiers."
Roach thanked Kenney for his "ongoing engagement and collaboration" on this file.
The office for Quebec's Minister of Labour Agnès Maltais told CBC News on Friday it had not been privy to Kenney's final offer.
A source close to the negotiations said that's because discussion between the federal government and Quebec are ongoing.
The Quebec government made it clear from the get-go it was only interested in renewing the terms of the Labour Market Agreements which are set to expire on March 31, but wanted nothing to do with the Canada Job Grant.
As indicated in this month's federal budget, in provinces where a deal can not be reached, the federal government will go ahead and implement the grant on April 1 directly through Service Canada.
Quebec called this measure a "threat."