Nova Scotia

Province has $10M diversity program, but MLA wants greater push for change

Nova Scotia is spending $10 million on a three-year program that currently helps 167 workers from under-represented communities, but one MLA says the province should also use its spending power to force companies to diversify.

New Democrat Lisa Roberts says N.S. government should lean on contractors, suppliers to hire diverse workers

From left to right: Jamie Smith, with the Centre for Employment Innovation at St. FX, deputy labour minister Duff Montgomery, and Nancy Hoddinott, senior executive director of skills and learning at the Labour Department, laud the NOW program at a Nova Scotia Legislature human resources committee. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Nova Scotia is spending $10 million on a three-year program that currently helps 167 workers from under-represented communities, but one MLA says the province should also use its spending power to force companies to diversify.

The New Opportunities for Work program provides support to businesses that hire workers from Mi'kmaw, black and visible-minority communities, people with disabilities or those receiving income assistance. The program includes a subsidy worth 70 percent of the worker's salary, over two years.

But New Democrat MLA Lisa Roberts wonders why the province isn't also using its muscle to ensure contractors and suppliers that do business with the government do more to diversify.

"I mean it's our dollars," Roberts said Tuesday after a presentation about the NOW program to the legislature's standing committee on human resources. "We're taxing Nova Scotians and then we are spending on goods and services.

"Those public dollars should be ensuring that all Nova Scotians get access to the employment that is generated through our tax dollars."

'There's more to be done'

Roberts has no problem with the NOW program but believes the province should also be using its spending power to force companies to look at workers traditionally under-represented in the workforce.

Deputy labour minister Duff Montgomerie said the provincial government is already exerting its influence when it comes to apprentices.

"We already, for example, have worked with the construction industry and with [the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal] in procurement, on the tendering process to ensure any government construction projects there are apprentices on site," he said.

"There's more to be done."

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