Politics & Policies

Labour Market Agreements in Canada – A more inclusive public accountability framework is needed

Workforce development policy in Canada has undergone extensive reforms in the past two decades, often driven by intergovernmental pressures. Many of these reforms, including the transfer of thousands of federal civil servants to the provinces, along with $2.5 billion annually, have occurred largely unnoticed by the public, or even recipients of services. Accountability measures have remained weak as the federal and provincial governments have few incentives to increase public scrutiny. In particular, transparency (making information available for public scrutiny) and justification (the provision of reasons for decisions) are inadequate. A more inclusive public accountability framework in the policy area needs to be developed that can support innovation in programs.


After the Trudeau Liberals assumed power in late 2015, they faced deci-sions on whether, and how, to recast the federal-provincial agreementsanalyzed in this article: the Labour Market Development Agreements, theLabour Market Agreements, and the Canada Job Fund Agreements. Theyalso had to consider two other labour market transfer agreement s: theLabour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities and the TargetedInitiative for Older Workers. Each has a distinct accountability regime, butall lack suffici ent transparency and justification measures. The new govern-ment, with a commitment to a more open style of governance than the Con-servatives, undertook a federal-provincial consultation with stakeholdersin mid-2016 on how “to improve the labour market transfer agreementsand guide future investments to strengthen labour market programming”(Forum of Labour Market Ministers 2016).
It is unclear if the consultation will result in reforms to accountabilityframeworks in the labour market transfer agreements. As revealed in ouranalysis, inc reasing accountability has not been the central driver of policycha nge in this domain. Indeed, as described, there are strong pressures onboth Ottawa and the provincial governments to limit, if not exclude, non-gov-ernm ental actors in federal – provincial workforce development policy andassociated accounta bility measures. Noneth eless, the consultation is a ho pefulsign that more tra ns parency, justification, compliance and enf orcement maybe incorporated into the nex t set of labour market transfer agreements inorder to better reflect the needs of stakeholders beyond government.

Job Market Monitor’s editor note : it is clear that the situation is quite different in Quebec where stakeholders are members of the Labour Market Board (Commission des partenaires du marché du travail)

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Accountability regimes in federal‐provincial Labour Market Agreements 1995‐2015 – Wood – 2017 – Canadian Public Administration – Wiley Online Library


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