By Melissa Heald
Feb. 20, 2014
Rodger Cuzner and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were heading to Cape Breton after attending the Liberal caucus on P.E.I. last summer.
While taking the ferry to Pictou, the young woman marshalling vehicles on and off spotted Trudeau in the car and started a conversation.
“I’ll be happy to get back to my real job,” she told them.
“What is your real job?” asked Cuzner, a Cape Breton MP.
“Well, I’m a teacher.”
“That’s fabulous. Do you just do this for extra money?” asked Cuzner, his party’s labour critic.
“Well, I’m a substitute teacher,”
“Really? How does that work?”
“Well, there are 1,800 teacher positions on Prince Edward Island. There are 1,200 substitute teachers.”
That woman on the ferry was an example of someone receiving training with no real hope in getting a job in the area they specifically trained for, said Cuzner on Feb. 17 speaking at a town hall meeting hosted by P.E.I. Liberal MP Sean Casey at the Guild.
In some disciplines, in some areas of the country, there’s a mismatch between skills and opportunity, said Cuzner.
“That was the rationale behind the Canada Job Grant.”
If new money had gone into the labour market agreement, the Canada Job Grant could have been a worthwhile program, said Cuzner.
He was referring to the federal government’s plan to fund the Canada Job Grant. It uses money allocated to the provinces to help those with the greatest challenges in accessing opportunities in the job market, people with disabilities or literacy challenges and some First Nation’s communities.
But taking money from the labour agreements and labour market development agreement will significantly hurt each of the provinces, said Cuzner.
“We see an undertaking by this government that hurts those most valuable in our communities.”
After the meeting, Cuzner said having federal and provincial private money to support apprenticeships is a good idea.
“It allows corporate Canada to have a say in training, saying this is the skills we need from a student when they graduate which will help my business, help my industry and help grow the economy.”
But taking money from the labour agreements is taking money from those who have difficulty finding opportunities, said Cuzner.
“That is where the money shouldn’t be coming from.”
The people who use the apprentice programs will be able to access those opportunities anyway. Those who rely on the labour agreements s are those who need the most help, said Cuzner.
“It’s still in everybody’s interest to have these people succeed and we are taking away that opportunity to help reach that potential.”
Hannah Bell is the executive director for P.E.I. Business Women’s Association, a non – profit group that helps support women in business. She wants the labour agreements to be extended, instead of having the Canada Job Grant to help support unrepresented workers.
Women don’t fit into the agreements and a lot of her members can’t take advantage of them, which require a person to be EI eligible, said Bell.
“A woman who’s been raising kids, who’s been working full time but working full time in the home, is not EI eligible.”
It’s a real challenge because that’s about the only place right now where a person can get support, she said.
There is a lot of disappointment among her members about this year’s federal budget, said Bell.
“The deceit doesn’t matter to them. What matters to them is getting money to get started or hire people for their business.”
Training grants is something else she would like to see for small businesses, said Bell.
“Training grants would be good because right now there are no training grants for small business, either federally or provincially.”
With $500, a person could start a business, said Bell.
She sees people every week who can’t start a business because they don’t have $500, said Bell.