Quebec City - The Quebec government has formally requested to be excluded from the new federal skills-training program.
The province's pro-independence government is particularly livid about the budget, and has held two news conferences 18 hours apart in order to blast it.
It stresses that labour training was transferred to the provinces after a hard-won battle in the wake of the 1995 Quebec independence vote. And it says its program works.
“We're asking for Quebec to be excused from this federal program,” Labour Minister Agnes Maltais said Friday. “We refuse to go 15 years backward.”
The skills-training change has drawn a mixed reaction from provinces.
Ontario calls it a shell game that might hurt the workers who need it most. British Columbia says it's concerned about being asked to foot the bill for a new federal program. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have asked for more information before jumping on board. But the reaction in Quebec City is strongest.
Perhaps even more than the labour-training change, the Parti Quebecois government is furious about the end of a tax credit for union venture-capital funds. The change will almost exclusively hit Quebec, where the investment vehicle is popular. The provincial government links the disappearance of that credit to a new economic development fund for Ontario worth nearly $1 billion.
“While Ontario is getting $900 million for its manufacturing industry,” said federal-provincial minister Alexandre Cloutier, “Quebec is getting peanuts from Ottawa.”
It has called the federal budget an act of economic sabotage against Quebec and an attack on the province, which gave the federal Conservatives few seats in the last election.
The opposition parties in Quebec are also upset about the budget, but they're trying to pin their disappointment on the provincial government. They say the PQ is more determined to pick fights with Ottawa than work with it and, as a result, has no leverage whatsoever. The PQ scoffs at that notion.
Cloutier says other provinces don't have sovereignist governments, and the program was imposed on them anyway, and he also notes that the last Quebec government had plenty of policies forced on it by the Harper Tories.
Quebec's main business lobby, the Conseil du patronat, was more favourable toward the budget. However, it urged caution in revamping the skills-training system.