The Honourable Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P. – Minister of Finance

April 11, 2017

Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Thank you, minister. My region of Nunavut unfortunately suffers from very high unemployment, particularly on the part of its big Aboriginal majority.

I’d like to ask you specifically about the ASETS program, the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy, that was announced in your 2017-18 budget, with a pledge to renew and improve the ASETS program. I’d like to draw your attention to concerns about that program. I do want to say that it has been very effective in training people in fisheries and marine skills and in the mining sector, but there are some concerns.

A senior manager at Arctic Co-operatives Limited, which is one of the bigger employers in the North, with 1,000 people in 32 stores, told me that they were hoping to employ the ASETS program to train Aboriginal people to take over as managers, creating new opportunities for entry-level employees; but the program, as presently designed, is limited only to unemployed persons.

I know it’s in your mandate to work with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to improve the job-training system in Canada. I’d like to know if you will consider this issue and how you might engage with stakeholders to enhance the program so that it can more effectively lead to better-paying jobs for Canadians, including in management.

Hon. Bill Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: I’d like to thank you for that question and come back to part of what you said in your comments, which is that this program was having some positive impact.

We looked at this ASETS program and saw that it was actually having a positive impact. For that reason, we decided that we wanted to continue to focus on how it can do more and more. I will certainly take away and try to better understand the issue that you identified, which is its ability to help employment in managerial positions. I’m not familiar with that issue, so I will take it away.

But I will tell you that this is part of a broader context for us in thinking about how we can ensure that Canadians are able to successfully deal with what is a very dynamic economy. ASETS is but one measure that we put in place in this budget.

In this budget, we are thinking about how we help Canadians to get the skills over the long term that are going to make them resilient as they consider whether the job they’re in is maybe not the final job for them. We’re starting to think about children learning basic coding skills, because we know that’s important for their long-term ability to be successful. We’re thinking about things like how to put more money into cooperative education programs across the country. We’ve seen significant success stories in co-op education in universities, so we’ve expanded that through the Mitacs program for universities and colleges.

We have looked at how we make sure that people who get into the Employment Insurance system have access to the kind of training that we need. We put in an increase in the funding there. We’re working together with the provinces, respecting provincial jurisdictions, to make sure that we are able to actually have an important impact there as well. Then we’ll be thinking about specific programs, like ASETS, where we can actually have a targeted impact on communities across our country dealing with changing and dynamic situations.

I will take that away and speak with my colleague. I want you to know that that’s part of a broader agenda of trying to ensure that Canadians have access to great jobs and the ability to move from one job to another, if that’s what they choose, with the kind of training they require to get there.

QP – Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy