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$795-million measures introduced to ‘connect Canadians with available jobs’

Jane Lytvynenko — CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA (CUP)—Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 on March 21. The budget titled “Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity” introduces new skills training and job creation measures, many of which are targeted at Canada’s youth.

The Conservatives hope to eliminate the budget deficit in the next two years.

“I want our country in a very solid fiscal position,” said Flaherty during a press conference. “Crises are inevitable from time to time and we have to make sure we are in a strong fiscal position. We’ll get there in 2015 with fairly moderate choices.”

With the new Canada Job Grant program, the Harper government is looking to match the unemployed to job seekers’ needs. It hopes to provide job seekers $5,000 each from the federal government that would ideally be matched by an additional $10,000 from provincial governments and employers.

The grant will create opportunities for apprentices and provide support to underrepresented groups, such as youth and Aboriginal peoples, to help them find employment.

A portion of the grant—up to $5,000 per person—will be eligible to businesses who can provide skills training, such as community and career colleges. The businesses’ and provinces’ contributions will have to match the federal government’s. The program will be finalized after renewal negotiations between the Labour Market Development Agreements and the provinces and territories in 2014–15.

Flaherty said he can’t guarantee all provinces will sign off on the grant, but remains optimistic about the plan.

“[The Conservatives] listen to businesses and persons who are unemployed,” said Flaherty. “We have a problem and we have to fix it. I think the provincial governments will listen to … employers.”

With the budget, the government announced promotion of education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and skilled trades, all of which are considered high-demand.

As a part of the Canada Job Grant, $19 million over two years will be reallocated to informing youth about those fields of study and the career opportunities stemming from them. The budget does not provide details of where the funding will be reallocated from.

A total of $70 million over three years will be invested in 5,000 paid internships for recent post-secondary graduates. They will be added on to the 3,000 internships already created with Economic Action Plan 2012.

The Canadian Youth Business Foundation will receive $18 million over two years if the foundation can raise $15 million to match the federal funding. The non-profit organization works with young entrepreneurs to develop their business by providing mentorship, advice, and other resources. The government hopes this will help the foundation become self-sustainable.

The budget also includes a boost for research funding, which will see $37 million per year to support partnerships with industry though the granting councils, including an additional $12 million annually for the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP). The CCIP supports collaboration between colleges and the industry on research projects.

The granting councils will expand eligibility for their undergraduate and industrial internships and scholarships to students who are enrolled in college bachelor programs.

The finance minister said the budget will be balanced in 2015.