Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are standing united against the federal government's new jobs training program, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday as she emerged from a meeting with the leaders gathered in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
"None of us are happy with the program with the way it's been rolled out or the process around it," Wynne said.
The Chair of the Council of the Federation said British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and New Brunswick Premier David Alward will study the Canada Job Grant program and report back in the fall.
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Wynne also said the premiers are calling for a federal-provincial meeting of ministers to discuss the contentious program.
"There needs to be a re-engagement on this. It's not going to work the way it is," Wynne said.
Jason Kenney, the new minister of Employment and Social Development, said in a written statement he looked forward to meeting with the premiers this fall "to discuss important labour market issues and to move forward with timely implementation of the Canada Job Grant."
Kenney said the program "has been widely praised by a variety of employer groups and stakeholders across the country.”
An internal document, sent to at least one province, suggests Ottawa is preparing to push ahead with key features of its controversial skills-training initiative, despite provincial opposition and calls for flexibility.
The document appears to retain all the elements of the proposal set out in the March budget.
The program would provide up to $15,000 per worker toward skills training to find a new or better job, but the federal contribution would only be $5,000, with the worker's province and employer contributing the rest.
The premiers say, if implemented, the program would require provinces and territories to find more than $600 million in additional funding to maintain current labour market training programs.
According to the premiers, the federal program "must allow jurisdictions to opt out with full compensation."
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said she was "very proud" to see the premiers taking a united stance against the jobs training program.
Despite wide opposition to the grant, the federal government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads extolling the merits of the program.
Protesters call for more health-care funding
As the premiers spent the morning meeting behind closed doors, protesters rallied outside to call on the premiers to press the federal government to provide more funding for health care.
Ottawa has said it will increase health-care funding by six per cent a year until the 2016-17 fiscal year, at which point the amount given to the provinces will be tied to economic growth.
The premiers are expected to spend Thursday afternoon discussing infrastructure, disaster relief and a Canadian energy strategy.
Progress on health-care innovation is on the premiers' agenda for Friday, along with bullying and cyberbullying.
A closing news conference is planned for Friday afternoon.
National public inquiry into aboriginal women
On Wednesday, the premiers met with aboriginal leaders and agreed to support a call by the Native Women's Association of Canada to launch a national public inquiry into the case of missing or murdered aboriginal women.
The federal government has dismissed calls for a national public inquiry, saying it has already taken concrete steps to improve the justice system.
Several rallies are planned across Canada on Thursday to draw attention to recent revelations that the federal government conducted nutritional experiments on aboriginals in the 1940s.
Participants will be asking the federal government to release all documents on residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A spokesperson for Bernard Valcourt, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs, said the nutritional experiments conducted on aboriginals "are abhorrent examples of the dark pages of the residential schools legacy. The prime minister's historic apology recognized that the Indian residential schools policy is a dark chapter in Canada's history. That is why we must continue the important work of reconciliation."
"We have turned over 900 documents related to this to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," the spokesperson for Valcourt said.
With files from The Canadian Press