STELLARTON – Almost two dozen local and regional business representatives and stakeholders gathered at NSCC Pictou Tuesday to attend a roundtable discussion hosted by Premier Darrell Dexter.
Among the topics discussed were federal changes to Employment Insurance (EI), the hiring of temporary foreign workers, the Canada Jobs Grant and the expression of interest overhaul for immigrants looking to work in Canada.
According to Dexter, the roundtable was held to gather information and stories before the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting next week.
The topic of discussion at the council meeting in Ontario will be skills training and labour market programs.
“Prior to each of the meetings of the council, I hold stakeholder meetings in order to get input on issues that are going to be before the council,” said Dexter. “Because of the structure of the Nova Scotia economy, I believe it’s going to be as important to Atlantic Canadians, if not more than other parts of the country.”
Dexter said he wanted to hear from those on the frontlines who make use of these programs that are undergoing changes at the federal level.
“The people here today are the ones who use immigration streams, temporary foreign worker programs, they have seasonal workers who rely on employment insurance and they understand the structure of the local economy,” said Dexter.
Dave Miller of Moncton-based Armour Transportation Services, which has terminals in New Glasgow, Truro and Amherst, said the roundtable was very beneficial and a way to have his company’s voice heard.
“When we talk about doing things better and contributing to the Atlantic economy it’s a very good thing,” he said. “This was an opportunity to share ideas, successes and challenges that we’ve all faced.”
Armour, similar to other businesses based in Atlantic Canada, has dealt with the exodus of some of its workforce to Western Canada. Miller is hoping that the message to the federal government will be loud and clear.
“There’s no reason why your commute to work should involve a plane. We’ve seen people go west and come back because there’s not always a pot of gold out there,” he said.
Jim Bates, academic chair of NSCC Pictou’s school of business, said the college could fill a role in ensuring Nova Scotia’s labour and skills needs are being met.
“We have an obligation to help support the local economy,” said Bates. “It was a pleasure to host the discussion at our campus.”
Dexter, who is also chair of the council, said the provinces and territories had little input into the changes on which the federal government is embarking.
“The federal government is proposing a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Dexter. “We need to have flexibility to respond to the different labour market needs in each part of the country.”
A statement from the council released in June outlined the opinion of all 13 provincial and territorial leaders. “In its 2013 Budget, the federal government announced its intention to change the way it contributes to training programs in Canada… but the proposed changes would take funding from programs that help the most vulnerable people who need additional supports to find jobs.”
Incoming chair of the Council of the Federation, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, will host the 2013 summer meeting of the council from July 24 to 26 at the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
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