Week of April 17, 2017
As we’ve seen firsthand in Northwestern Ontario, the Canadian economy is constantly evolving. In order to remain an active part of the economy, we must equip Canada’s current and future workers with the tools they need to succeed. I am happy to see Budget 2017 address underemployment and long-term unemployment with various initiatives that will make it easier for northerners to get training while keeping their jobs, or their Employment Insurance benefits.
The Innovation and Skills Plan is an ambitious effort to make Canada a world-leading centre for innovation, to help create more well-paying jobs. The Plan will target six key areas—advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences, and clean resources. The aim is to grow Canada’s goods and services exports by 30 per cent.
A key component in this is to expand the level of support for job training and expanding eligibility for programs and services under the Labour Market Development Agreements. This includes initiatives which will raise the income threshold for part-time students to qualify for federal student loans and grants. The program will begin in the 2018-2019 academic year.
The budget also pledges to make EI more flexible to allow unemployed Canadians the chance to go back to school or undertake training while receiving benefits. With some exceptions, Canadians are currently ineligible for EI if they attend school or training for more than 14 hours per week. This rule actually discourages unemployed Canadians from bettering their training and seeking higher-level jobs. We need to do better and we have, because with this change, more people would be eligible to improve their skills while still receiving EI.
Our government is also working hard to fill the skills gaps in our economy. Budget 2017 proposes $225 million over four years to establish a new organization to support skills development and measurement in Canada. Working in partnership with willing provinces and territories, the private sector, educational institutions and not-for-profit organizations, this new organization will identify the skills required by Canadian employers.
Overall, I believe Budget 2017 will set-up Canadians with the best chance to succeed in our economy through new investments in skills and training. For more information on the budget, you can visit www.budget.gc.ca.
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