On the job training with Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney, Canada's employment minister, can't seem to catch a break.

Every few weeks, it seems like a new report comes out highlighting a more nuanced picture of Canada's labour force than Kenney likes to paint.

When TD Economics released a study recently throwing "cold water" on the idea of a skills shortage in Canada, Kenney surfaced to talk up a shortage and defend the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The program, pitched by the Conservatives as a solution to an overblown problem, has been growing rapidly in the last decade amid reports of companies abusing the program and bumping domestic employees for lower-paid temporary foreign workers vulnerable to human-rights abuses.

The Institute for Research on Public Policy contributed to the debate Friday with the release of a study on how to strengthen Canada's labour market in the next decade. "Despite widespread concerns from employers about impending labour and skill shortages as baby boomers retire," author Cliff Halliwell "finds that the long-term prospects for Canada's labour supply and demand are balanced, and that ongoing shortages are unlikely."

Recommendations from Halliwell include: limiting temporary foreign worker programs "to jobs that are truly 'temporary'"; "strenghthening and formalizing the 'second-chance' system to help Canadians upgrade their education or skills, or get better jobs, over the course of their careers;" and modernizing labour market measures to "better support the needs of long-tenured workers and more effectively target the skills development and training needs of the unemployed."

Speaking of job training programs, the Conservative government surprised the provinces back in the spring when it announced the creation of a new national job training program. The glitch? The plan is to pay for the Canada Job Grant by taking $300 million from a $500 million annual transfer for provincial training programs. Needless to say, the provinces aren't happy.

A story that surfaced Friday won't help. 

The findings of an internal federal study, published in the Vancouver Sun, show Kenney's department praised the federally funded programs just 10 days before Conservative government announced it was slashing the transfer by $300 million.

There's a "strong and continuing need" for them, the internal report stated. Wonder if the report came up Friday afternoon, when Kenney met with his provincial counterparts to talk about job training.

Photo: perspectiveUsed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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