I am writing to address this year’s second round of Job Creation Partnerships (JCPs), which are now six weeks late. The first round, announced June 1 and totalling over $6 million, were 10 weeks late.
Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Burke has recently responded to criticisms of the tardiness of the JCP process, asserting that there are no formal deadlines.
This is an utter falsehood. In fact, the table of deadline dates and assessment periods can be found in the following government document: http://www.aes.gov.nl.ca/lmda/pdf/JobCreationPartnerships.pdf.
I find it disturbing that towns and organizations applying must live by the deadline, but government feels no such need to do likewise.
Adding to the uncertainty out there is all the talk of belt tightening this spring, followed by Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s recent “reality check” that government may have forecast oil prices so high that we may take on a $700 million deficit.
What needs to be highlighted here is JCP funding comes from the federal government.
Over $120 million is allocated each year as part of the Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA), whereby responsibility for administering labour market programming devolved from the federal to the provincial government in 2009.
What I am hearing in my district is programs under the LMDA have never been so poorly stewarded as they are now under the Dunderdale government.
Meanwhile, in rural districts like mine (Burgeo-La Poile), many organizations are watching the window of the tourist season close before them.
They relied in the past on these positions to make the most of the tourist season.
In the JCP announcement for Burgeo-La Poile on July 15, 2011, then-tourism minister Terry French stated as follows: “Given the importance of the tourism industry to this area, these projects will help to secure the long-term viability of the industry. Economic development is an important part of strengthening communities on the Southwest Coast, and it also positions the area as an important tourism destination within Newfoundland and Labrador.”
It appears that this is not the case anymore in the post-election summer.
Out of the mix
Minister Burke has stated that she is not involved in this process, essentially blaming this debacle on the bureaucrats; however, that excuse does not cut it.
She is the minister and head of that department and the buck stops with her.
If she is not prepared to lead, then someone else will have to.
However, a new fear has arisen — is it incompetence that is delaying the JCPs, or is something more sinister at work?
Has the Dunderdale government, in its painful delays of this program, in its last minute extension of Employment Assistance Agencies back in March, actually already spent this money earmarked for this program elsewhere?
Or is it employing a passive-aggressive approach to weaning organizations from government by making the process so utterly hopeless that groups no longer apply in the future?
By all means, invest the LMDA money wisely to help people find meaningful employment and help communities thrive.
However, don’t leave people in the lurch in the meantime.
Andrew Parsons is the MHA for the district of Burgeo-La Poile.