The Harper government has released ads touting its Canada Job Grants Program. The problem is that the program doesn't exist. Andrew Coyne writes in the Postmedia papers:
Ottawa proposes to foot only one-third of the cost of the grants; the remainder is contingent on the participation of the provinces and employers, which has yet to be negotiated.
What is more (less?), it appears some of the larger provinces may never sign on. Quebec has already signaled its outright refusal (but you knew that), while Ontario is promising to be difficult, at the least. A statement from the province’s minister of training released Monday complains the program, while potentially “a valuable tool,” would “force Ontario to re-direct funds currently geared to help the most vulnerable workers.”
The Harperites are intruding on provincial jurisdiction -- which is odd, because Stephen Harper says he believes in drawing clear lines between federal and provincial responsibilities. Coyne argues, if the Harperites truly believed in the program, they could fund their share -- something they did not do in the last budget.
No, what the government is doing is classic Harper strategy: selling nothing for something. The prime minister sold the country on accountability, but refused to give Kevin Page the information he needed to do his work. Ditto on Afghan prisoners and the prisons program. He claimed he was going to drain the swamp in Ottawa, and make the Senate more democratic. Then he gave us Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.
What the Job Grant Program gives the government is another opportunity to shift the blame. If the program doesn't materialize, Mr. Harper will blame the provinces. And, most important of all, it allows Mr. Harper another opportunity to sell Canadians nothing for something -- the something being their own money.
Nothing for something. What a concept!