The federal government will “go ahead ourselves” with a plan to divert some job-training cash to its proposed Canada Jobs Grant even if the provinces and territories don’t sign on, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney told CTV’s Power Play.

Asked Thursday about provincial leaders’ strong opposition to the new job training fund and a declaration that they will not participate in the program without substantial changes, Kenney said the federal government is open to discussing their concerns “in good faith.”

However, if the two sides can’t work out a deal, the federal government will administer the program anyway.

“We hope we can work out a flexible arrangement with the provinces,” Kenney told Power Play Thursday. “But if not, we’re going to go ahead ourselves and administer directly a federal jobs grant.”

The Canada Jobs Grant was unveiled in last spring’s federal budget. Under the plan, the federal government would divert about 60 per cent of the funding it currently provides for job training programs to the new grant.

The grant would amount to $15,000 per worker. Ideally, Kenney said, the two levels of government and business owners would each contribute $5,000.

The provinces would be able to do what they wish with the remaining 40 per cent of the funding they receive under the current labour market agreement, Kenney said.

After a meeting in Toronto with business and labour leaders on Wednesday, the country’s premiers said the Canada Jobs Grant is dead on arrival if changes aren’t made to the plan as it now stands.

They argue that the program would not give them the flexibility they need to divert funding where it’s needed most, and could lead to the cancellation of current programs. The premiers say they would have to come up with $600 million to keep current programs running and contribute to the new grant.

"If the federal government is hell-bent on moving forward without dialogue, the provinces have said, ‘We will not be participating,’" New Brunswick Premier David Alward said Wednesday after the meeting.

“That is clear.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said small business owners expressed particular concerns at their meeting.

“The closer the organization was to actually delivering training on the ground in communities, the more concerned they were about the impact it was going to have," Clark said.

"And that really, I think, speaks to the concern that a big, one-size-fits-all solution is just simply not going to work on the ground where training is actually delivered and where workers get what they need to go into the real workforce."

Kenney said he has already spoken to most of his provincial counterparts about the program, and expects to meet with them sometime this fall.

He disputed the claim that it’s a “one-size-fits-all” plan, saying it has changed since it was first introduced and includes allowances for different job markets in different areas, allows for on- or off-site job training and allows businesses to work together on training programs.

Kenney says the new fund will help businesses “do a better job of creating jobs.”

“Governments in this country spend billions of dollars on training and a lot of it gets spent on training for the sake of training,” Kenney told Power Play. “We want to actually empower businesses, employers, who know better than government bureaucracies who is going to benefit most from training and will actually get able to get to work.”

Matthew Wilson, vice president of national policy with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, told The Canadian Press after Wednesday’s meeting that his organization is among those asking for changes to the Canada Jobs Grant.

However, he was “encouraged” by the meeting, and said he likes the idea of putting money in the hands of employers so they can devise the right training programs for their businesses.

"I think there was a general consensus that employer-driven training will be the most effective way to deliver training programs going forward, because employers are the ones that are hiring people and training people or need to train people to do the jobs of tomorrow," Wilson said.

"I think that was a really positive outcome of it, which is exactly what the Canada Job Grant is supposed to do. How it works is something entirely different and I think that every group probably has its own idea of how something should work."