This past week the new budget was delivered by Jim Flaherty and according to the Metro one of the six things we had to know included, the quickly becoming infamous Canada Job Grant (Greenway & Matthews, 2014). The Canada Job Grant gives businesses looking to hire and train underemployed or unemployed workers up to $15,000 per worker for training costs. However, what seems like the solution to our problem of youth unemployment and underemployment in Canada has raised considerable controversy.
But what could be so wrong with the Federal government covering the cost of training workers to fill skill-based jobs, alleviating the risk for employers and making it easier for unemployed workers and underemployed youth to find jobs?
The first argument steams from the fact that in order to fund the grant federal and provincial funds would be redirected from an existing suite of employment programs in the provinces and territories; programs which already serve minority and at-risk groups. According to Brad Duguid, the Minister for Ontario Training, Colleges and Universities, grant would move $116 million dollars from these groups in Ontario alone, removing 60% of federal funding (The Globe and Mail, 2013a; Ottawa Citizen, 2013). Because the provinces are expected to match the Federal government’s contribution this means that $232 million worth of funding will put into a single program focused on “job-ready” applicants, for example, helping recent college graduates receive training, and not laid-off factory workers with low literacy skills; vulnerable workers who need these programs to receive training they could not otherwise pay for.
The second argument is the plan is untested. Many feel it will place more obstacles in the way for vulnerable groups to receive benefits and that changing already existing, established plans, models and systems may cause confusion and problems.
Finally, with the federal budget’s release the plan has now become “a take-it-or-leave-it” situation if deals are not reached with the provinces. According to the budget, “in jurisdictions where agreements are not secured, the government of Canada will deliver the Canada Job Grant starting April 1, 2014, directly through Service Canada” (CBC, 2014b). The provinces have offered a counter proposal but it appears the government will go ahead regardless once negotiations expire on March 31st.
The advertisements surrounding this campaign began running last year and the Canada Job Grant has clearly a cornerstone of the new Labour Market Agreement the government has been negotiating with the provinces and territories (Ottawa Citizen, 2013). Even so Jim Flaherty mentioned in an interview that he wishes to tackle youth unemployment.
“And I agree with those who suggest there is a challenge for young people getting the first job, even (the) well-educated, well-skilled. So, we need to try to help and we will,” he said (CBC, 2014a).
The notion of the Canada Job Grant appears to be a response to the crisis supported using image restoration techniques. “Image Restoration Theory is a descriptive system used to analyze crisis cases. The focal point is identifying which crisis response strategies were used in the case and drawing speculative conclusions about the utility of the crisis response strategies” (Coombs, 2007, p. 171).
First, is compensation: the victim is offered money or a gift (Zaremba, 2010). In this case the Canada Job Grant itself is the compensation, employers are being offered the opportunity to have the government pay for the training of youth workers. For young adults this a lackluster apology for making students incur large amounts of debt to only enter a job market where they don’t have the right skills to fill positions. According to Coomb (2007) this is a “rebuild” strategy in order to improve the government’s reputation – and with an election coming up in 2015 attracting the less than eager youth voters is a must. Since in the 2011 federal election, 39 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 45 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds turned out to vote – rates well below the national average of 61 per cent (The Globe and Mail, 2013b).
Second, is compassion. From the previous quote it is clear that Flaherty empathizes with youth workers. Leveraging this pathos is a to good way to restore legitimacy by expressing genuine concern for those affected by the crisis.
“We’ve never reduced spending, even during all the difficult times, on education, on our funding for universities and colleges. We’ve never reduced that. Nor have we reduced our funding for persons with disabilities and seniors and so on. Unlike, the previous government” (CBC, 2014a).
This second quote from the interview is curious. This was his first response when questioned about spending to help unemployed youth. This quote in particular employs the image restoration techniques of: bolstering, displacement, and minimization. By mentioning his government’s past achievements and pointing out the folly of the previous government the blame is displaced and reputation of the Conservative Federal government bolstered. In addition, not addressing the crisis directly in the interview also minimizes or downplays the damage so many youth have felt when they can’t find moderately paying work that values their skills.
So the government is addressing the crisis…but are they really. They are now openly acknowledging it. They apparently have a plan. But you can’t just fix one hole in a leaking boat. This is a Titanic of a problem and the grant may offer some relief to youth un(der)employed but its costing our labour market in other places, such as for the at-risk youth who do not possess a formal education. We appear to dumping vulnerable out of work Canadians on the sidelines to implement a plan that focuses on only a certain segment of unemployed.
It appears to be a solution in sheep’s clothing. Bolstering, compensating, and minimizing a big problem.
CBC. (2014a). Jim Flaherty targets youth joblessness, price gaps in budgets. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/jim-flaherty-targets-youth-joblessness-price-gaps-in-budget-1.2528057
CBC. (2014b). New Canada Job Grant budget measures upset provinces. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-canada-job-grant-budget-measures-upset-provinces-1.2533004
Coombs, T.W. (2007). Protecting Organization Reputations During a Crisis: The Development and Application of Situational Crisis Communication Theory. Corporate Reputation Review 10, 163–176. doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1550049Greenway, T., & Matthews, G. “The budget: Six things to know.” Metro News 12 February 2014: 08: Print.
Ottawa Citizen. (2013). Ontario takes hard line over proposed federal jobs program. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Ontario+takes+hard+line+over+proposed+federal+jobs+program/9139720/story.html
The Globe and Mail. (2013a). Pressing for changes to Canada Jobs Grant, Ontario threatens to pull out. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/pressing-for-changes-to-canada-jobs-grant-ontario-threatens-to-pull-out/article12538103/
The Globe and Mail. (2013b). The youth vote key for today’s Trudeaus. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-youth-vote-is-key-for-todays-trudeaus/article13937370/
The Marxist-Leninist Daily. (n.d.). Oppose Bill 68—Government Must Defend the Most Vulnerable Workers. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2010/D40147.htm
thestar.com. (2013). Fixing the Canada Job Grant program. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/11/28/fixing_the_canada_job_grant_program.html
Through a Windshield. (2013). Beware of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://throughawindshield.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/beware-of-the-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/
Zaremba, A. J. (2010). Crisis communication: Theory and practice. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.