OTTAWA - Businesses desperate for skilled labour will be keenly watching the upcoming federal budget, fearful the federal government will water down the Canada Jobs Grant amid provincial and territorial opposition.
Critics dispute the government's claims that the program is needed to address a serious skills shortage in Canada, but those on the front lines beg to differ.
And they fully support the government's original proposals to combat the problem.
Serge Buy, head of the National Association of Career Colleges, says he's heard rumours that Ottawa might give into provincial and territorial demands.
An official in Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney's office, meanwhile, would say only that talks continue between Ottawa and the provinces.
In last year's budget, the government said it would slice $300 million — about 60 per cent — from the so-called Labour Market Agreement implemented by the Conservatives in 2007.
That initiative provides funds to train unemployed workers not eligible for employment insurance and is aimed at aboriginals, immigrants, women, youth, older workers, people with disabilities and those with low literacy levels.
Under the original proposal, Ottawa would issue the grants itself if the provinces and employers provide matching funding.
The Conservatives are aiming to compel employers to train their future and current workers, and to encourage provinces to focus on training that will result in actual employment.