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Ottawa forges ahead with promised job grant for 2014

The federal government plans to launch its promised new training grant by April 1, 2014, even though several provinces strongly object to the program.

The Canada Job Grant was a central feature of the 2013 federal budget, promising up to $15,000 for individual Canadians looking to obtain job training. But the announcement caught provinces off guard, especially since the Conservative government expects them to help pay for the grants and will be cutting back on transfers toward provincial training programs.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley confirmed the target date Tuesday after speaking to a national conference of Canada's Building Trades Unions. The government announced in the budget that it will overhaul a $500-million-a-year program aimed at training unemployed workers who do not qualify for employment insurance.

We'll be negotiating with the provinces and territories to put those [agreements] in place with a target of having the implementation start April 1 next year, Ms. Finley said.But also making sure that we're taking ¦ the decisions about what training is provided to the unemployed, out of the hands of government and putting it where it really belongs: in the hands of employers and Canadians who want to work.

Several provinces are pushing back, noting that Ottawa is only promising to contribute up to $5,000 toward each grant - and the federal money will be in lieu of cash that used to be transferred to the provinces to fund their training programs.

The Parti Quebecois government announced almost immediately after the federal budget was released that it would refuse to participate. Ontario's Liberal Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Brad Duguid, says the federal plan amounts toa shell game with transfers that currently go to vulnerable populations like aboriginals and people with disabilities.

Canada's major business groups have been strong supporters of the proposed job grant, arguing it will help companies respond to serious skills shortages. Bob Blakely, chief operating officer of the Canadian Building Trades Unions, said the jobs grant seems like a positive move to address the uneven approach to apprenticeship programs across the country.