Volume 90, Issue 86

Friday, March 07, 1997



Claiming our fair share

By Kevin Gale
Gazette Staff

The only thing Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dianne Cunningham wants is fair treatment for Ontario.

Cunningham told a group of budding politicians in the Social Science Centre yesterday the federal government is violating the fundamental value of equity held by Ontarians by not transferring money to provinces for job training and provincial social programs in a fair manner.

She said the province accounts for 39 per cent of Canada's labour force and 36 per cent of the country's unemployed. "At 27 per cent the government is not offering nearly enough funding to meet training needs in Ontario," she said.

Of the $8 billion the federal government collected from the provinces last year for job training through employment insurance, Ontario contributed $4 billion, Cunningham said.

However, Ontario will only see half of the money they put in, she added.

Resulting from high premiums on employment insurance, the government has also accumulated a $4 billion surplus, 80 per cent of which comes from Ontario. "Some of the surplus from Ontario should be directed by the federal government back into the province to cover the real costs of job training," she said.

However, job training fund responsibilities are now being given to the provinces, a move Cunningham said makes sense considering how the Ontario government has been trying trim down and get itself operating more efficiently. "There is far too much overlap – the money isn't in job training, it's in bureaucracy," she said.

The unfairness of the federal government funding distribution will amount to a $2.1 billion loss in transfer payments for health care over the next five years, she said.

A more equitable solution would be to base these transfer payments on a per capita basis, which would make up for lost monies. "We're not looking for political stripes right now. We're looking for serious change," she said.

The federal government currently has the Equalization Program, a program where wealth is transferred from wealthier provinces like Ontario to have-not provinces like New Brunswick, she explained.

However, provincial social programs and employment fall outside the program to which Ontario taxpayers contribute $3.6 billion a year, she said, adding the province supports the program and would like to see the other components included.

The inequity lies mostly with Ontario and the Maritimes where funding for job training is 38 per cent of the $8 billion in New Brunswick alone, she said. "People in New Brunswick get the opportunity for twice the employment training [over Ontarians]." However, discussions between the respective provincial governments have begun. "Any changes to the Maritimes would have to be done very gradually – we're not looking for overnight success."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997