The federal government is determined to push forward with its Canada Job Grant plan, despite opposition from B.C. Premier Christy Clark and other provincial leaders.
The grant program was highlighted during Wednesday's speech from the throne, opening up the latest session of Parliament. The plan, as the federal government has devised it, calls for the provincial and federal government to each contribute a third of the cost of skills training, with employers kicking in the other third.
Clark and other premiers have balked at the idea, which they see as both a claw back of federal dollars, an infringement on provincial jurisdiction and an unnecessary burden on small businesses.
Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer said he understands provincial concerns, but believes a deal can be worked out to get the grant program off the ground.
"What we're trying to do is respond to the skills shortage that's already here, not to mention the one that's going to hit us in the next 10 to 20 years," he said. "We're trying to have flexibility with how we're going to address that."
Zimmer said he's heard from business owners in his riding that some institutions aren't providing the appropriate training and believes the jobs grant program is a good one because it takes the input of industry groups.
"Some of the details are still being ironed out and how this thing is going to play out in the real world," he said. "We're building it to be an effective system, we're not wanting to see the skills shortage unaddressed."
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he found it curious that the federal government would include the grant program so prominently in the speech given the opposition from the premiers. He pointed out that the federal government has run advertisements promoting the plan before a deal with the provinces was in place.
"I don't understand how the government is so enthusiastic about rolling out all these things that don't mean anything in the real lives of Canadians and expect to get applauded," Cullen said. "It's offensive and it distracts from the real job of trying to get those jobs back that are all missing."
In addition to trying to find ways to fill the jobs its expected to create, the resource sector also received a lot of play in the speech as the Conservative government looks to increase exports to help boost the economy.
Zimmer said the speech proves the government is listening to its critics because it included promises to enshrine the polluter-pay principle into law, ensure there's adequate liability insurance on major projects and improve safety standards for both rail and tanker traffic.
"So many concerns have been voiced and we've addressed those concerns directly," he said. "They can't be more direct than what we've said in the throne speech."
Cullen described the throne speech as "a lot of shiny baubles in the window, but not a lot of substance" and said what was missing was specific plans on how to address issues relating to First Nations people - especially as it relates to resource issues.
The speech did say the government plans to renew its efforts to deal with why Aboriginal women are more likely to be victims of violent crimes, something Zimmer said was important because everyone should be treated equally.
Cullen, meanwhile, zeroed in on the line after Aboriginal women were mentioned.
"There's a very awkward phrasing in the throne speech where the government makes a passing reference to missing and murdered Aboriginal women and the very next sentence talks about prostitution in Canada and how we need to crack down on prostitutes," he said. "I don't think it was by intention, but boy it left a lot of people feeling not good."