OCASI Response to Federal Budget 2013


The federal budget 2013 released on Thursday March 21 is a mixed bag for Immigration, Citizenship, Settlement and Integration. The budget includes funding to expedite the Temporary Resident Program ($42m over two years) and the Citizenship program ($44m over two years). There is little detail about how funds will be expended in these two programs, a consistent theme about the budget.

Skills Training Programs formed the centre-piece of the budget, as anticipated from media stories in the weeks leading up to its' tabling on Thursday, March 21. The budget announced the creation of the Canada Jobs Program, which according to the government will “directly connect skills training with employers and jobs for Canadians”.

The plan, based on information in the budget is to use up to $300m of the existing $500m the federal government now transfers to the provinces and territories through the Labour Market Agreement (LMA). Provinces and territories and employers will be expected to provide matching funds ($5,000 each per individual for a total of $15,000). No details are given about how this will be negotiated, how funds will get to individuals, which level of government will administer the program or what training programs will be eligible. Not surprisingly the community-based sector is concerned.

Organizations like OCASI, the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group and other umbrella organizations engaged with community based training programs anticipate that the federal government will encounter significant problems in the required negotiations with provinces and territories.  As stated above, the measure as constructed would see the provinces allocating significant funds a year on their matching grants over and above what they now spend on training. In Ontario all of the allocation from the LMA is already being used to provide training and employment preparation, much of it for the unemployed who are ineligible for Employment Insurance. This includes new immigrants and refugees and those on social assistance including women fleeing domestic violence.

Diverting up to two-thirds of the money into this new program without alignment with existing programs could have serious implications for community based agencies. It may result in the elimination of almost all employment programs targeted to the most vulnerable unemployed populations in Ontario.

The budget also indicates that the existing Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA) worth approximately $1.95billion to provinces and territories will be re-negotiated. Again there's little detail about the intent of this re-negotiation other than that the funds will be reoriented toward labour market demand.