Budget 2019 will create 'lifelong learning' accounts: sources

The federal government will establish personalized accounts to help Canadians pay for lifelong learning and skills development in next week’s budget, CBC News has learned.

The program, modelled on one in Singapore, is meant to boost job retraining

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau takes questions from children from the Toronto and Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club after putting on his new budget shoes for a pre-budget photo opportunity in Toronto on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The federal government will establish personalized accounts to help Canadians pay for lifelong learning and skills development in next week's budget, CBC News has learned.

The specific details of the program weren't shared with CBC, but two government sources say the government's plan is modelled on a similar program in Singapore.

The Singapore SkillsFuture program sets up personal accounts to help anyone over the age of 25 pay for retraining and skills development.

Watch: Canadian Chamber of Commerce's chief economist on the upcoming budget

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Under the SkillsFuture program, individual accounts start with a government-funded opening credit of $500 with the promise of periodic top-ups. The credit can be used to help pay for training services selected from a list of pre-approved programs and institutions.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau hinted broadly at the program during a pre-budget event at a shoe repair shop in Toronto today. The Kensington Market shop's owner, Lorena Angola, had to take time off from her old job to retrain as a cobbler.

"In our budget this year that's what we are going to be thinking about," Morneau said. "How do we help Canadians to take time off? How do we ensure that they can continue to live their life while they are taking time off? And how do they pay for their training?"

Government sources would not say how closely the financial support in the Canadian program would align with what Singapore is offering.

Skills development will be one of the four major themes of next week's budget, along with pharmacare, support for seniors and housing affordability.

Budget to be tabled Tuesday

Morneau announced last month that the final budget of the Trudeau government's current term will be tabled March 19.

"We know there's more to do. That's why I am so pleased to announce that March 19, we will be introducing budget 2019, the next steps in our plan to ensure middle-class optimism and an economy that works for all Canadians," Morneau said in the House of Commons.

A statement released by Morneau's office said the budget will focus on investments in people and communities and creating opportunities for future generations, although no specifics were offered.

The Business Council of Canada recently urged Morneau to include measures in the budget to make Canada more competitive and better able to handle the shocks of the next economic downturn.

BCC President and CEO Goldy Hyder said the council remains concerned about skills training, regulation, the energy sector, trade and Canada's fiscal sustainability.

"Canada's business leaders are concerned about Canada's economic future," Hyder said in a letter sent to the minister Tuesday.

"Budget 2019 is an important opportunity to introduce measures to help Canada reach its full potential while preparing for the next downturn."


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