Canada's premiers and territorial leaders are presenting a united front against a new federal jobs training program, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday after a full day of meetings with her counterparts in Niagara-on-the-Lake. But questions around a possible Canadian energy strategy remain.
Wynne, chair of the Council of the Federation, said "none of us are happy with the program with the way it's been rolled out or the process around it."
She 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.
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.
In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics Thursday, Labour Minister Kellie Leitch told host Evan Solomon "the message back to the premiers is we're focused on creating jobs and they should step to the plate and do exactly the same thing."
Clark told reporters that Jason Kenney, the new minister of employment and social development, "needs to fix it."
"If we are going to make it happen in any province across the country, it needs to be fixed. The consensus opinion from every premier today is that the program as it's proposed at the moment will not have any uptake, in any province," Clark said.
Kenney, 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."
The program, he said, "has been widely praised by a variety of employer groups and stakeholders across the country.”
However, 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.
The question of a national energy strategy was also up for discussion during the summer meeting, though final decisions weren't expected as the provinces are not all aligned in how they want to proceed.
"Quebec and British Columbia have said they are not going to take part in a Canadian energy strategy development," Wynne said after an afternoon meeting with the leaders.
Wynne said the premiers released a progress report on the work done by the provinces and territories on a Canadian energy strategy and while no consensus was reached, all the premiers stayed at the table.
"Everyone was interested in the discussion," Wynne said.
Clark told reporters her province has not signed onto the energy strategy in part because "we still have some outstanding issues to resolve with respect to the Northern Gateway pipeline."
The issue will crop up again Friday, when the leaders are expected to talk about the transportation of oil and other dangerous goods.
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Protesters call for more health-care funding
As the premiers spent the morning meeting behind closed doors, protesters rallied outside, calling 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 also spent Thursday discussing infrastructure and a national disaster relief plan.
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 were planned across Canada on Thursday to draw attention to recent revelations that the federal government conducted nutritional experiments on aboriginal people 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
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