Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has defended the Conservative’s continued spending on the ‘economic action plan’ advertisements, saying that Canadians are entitled to know what their government is doing.

The Conservatives recently put out a tender for a major new ad agency contract that could see the ads continue until 2016.
The government has already spent more than $100 million since 2009 promoting the “economic action plan’ brand.

Last week, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau questioned the ad spending, saying the money could be put towards summer job programs for students, with youth unemployment at an all-time high.

However, Flaherty said certain programs are worth advertising.

“Look at the jobs skills part of the budget,” he told CTV’s Question Period. “I mean, this is such an important part of the budget. The number one issue in Canada today, right across the country, is employers … looking for properly trained people and people look to be properly trained so they can match the jobs.

“In terms of advertising, Canadians are entitled to know what their government in up to,” Flaherty said.

Feds look to overhaul job skills program

Flaherty says need for proper skills training is the most important issue facing Canada’s economy and one that needs to be addressed by the federal government.

Central to his 2013 federal budget was a new job grant program that will see the federal government provide up to $5,000 per person for job training, but only if it is matched by provinces, territories and employers.

The new program means that provincial governments will no longer fully control the money Ottawa spends on skills training, while also leaving them on the hook for their share of the funding, which has drawn criticism from some provinces.  

“It is broken, that’s the problem. Otherwise we wouldn’t be creating the program,” Flaherty said. “The reality is we know how many people get trained in the country by provinces, but we don’t know how many get jobs, we don’t know what the outcomes are, and we know that some province use the money, or some of the money, for other purposes."

Flaherty said he is not prepared to withhold funding from provinces that are not on board with the skills training overhaul.

“We want to work with the provinces, because after all, the goal here is not for government to take credit, the goal is to get money directly from governments to employers,” he said.

The Parti Quebecois has already formed a panel, led by former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, to fight the feds over changes to skills training.

Flaherty said Quebec’s opposition was expected.