University of Toronto Press Blog

  • The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 1

    by Donna E. Wood

    In 2018 we celebrate 100 years of public employment services in Canada. These are the supports and services provided by our governments to connect unemployed and underemployed job seekers with employers through information, guidance, placement, training, and labour market adjustment services. Not only does the public employment service or PES help individuals develop job skills, by facilitating job matching it helps employers fill vacancies more efficiently.

    Jurisdictional responsibility for the public employment service in Canada has changed hands four times over the century ─ from a national network of provincially managed but federally funded services between 1918 and 1940; to an arm’s length organization between 1940 and 1977 under federal control; to direct management under a federal government department between 1977 and 1996; and back to mostly provincial design and delivery using federal funding starting in 1996. However, what has not changed is the essential contribution of Canada’s public employment service to keeping unemployment rates low and labour market participation rates high.

    My new book Federalism in Action: the Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015 focuses on the past 20 years when ─ triggered primarily by a need for the Chrétien Liberal government to demonstrate ‘flexible federalism’ following the 1995 Québec referendum ─ federal PES responsibilities were transferred to the provinces and territories one jurisdiction at a time over a period of 14 years through largely similar Labour Market Development Agreements. Provincial management was solidified in 2007 with additional federal funding through what were known at the time as Labour Market Agreements.

    In 2015 provinces[1] provided public employment services through entities called WorkBC, Alberta Works, Saskatchewan-Canada Career & Employment Service Centres, Manitoba Jobs & Employment Centres, Employment Ontario, Emploi-Québec, New Brunswick Career Information Centres, Career Nova Scotia Centres, PEI Career Development Centres, and Newfoundland & Labrador Employment Skills Centres. Services for Aboriginal people were provided through 85 Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategy (ASETS) holders operating in communities across Canada and by the federal government directly through contracts arranged with community-based organizations for youth and persons with disabilities. Ottawa also retained a funding, oversight, and pan-Canadian coordination role.

    Collectively these organizations and the services they provide make up Canada’s public employment service, with most funding coming from mandatory employer and worker contributions to the Employment Insurance (EI) account and oversight provided by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission and federal/provincial/territorial Ministers through the Forum of Labour Market Ministers. In 2013/14 almost 1.2 million Canadians used provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal employment services at a cost of over $3.1 billion to the Government of Canada. Many of those receiving services were in receipt of federal Employment Insurance or provincial social assistance benefits.

    My book assesses how Canada’s public employment service performed between 1995 and 2015 under predominately provincial, territorial and Aboriginal ─ as opposed to federal ─ management. The data source was 132 interviews with 170 people in every province; federal parliamentary committee hearings and reports; federal performance and evaluation reports (including the annual Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report); provincial accountability reports; as well as academic and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assessments. The analysis was framed around four questions:

    1. What governance choices did each province make in taking on the federal programming? Why? What outcomes have been achieved and how do these compare across provinces?

    2. Considered collectively, how do the devolved PES services compare to when they were delivered by the Government of Canada?

    3. How is the Government of Canada managing its role post-devolution?

    4. How does Canada’s PES work together as a whole? What challenges remain as our public employment service moves into the 21st century?

    On the first question, provinces were compared on four elements drawn from the international literature (single gateways, decentralization, outsourcing, and partnerships) in four groupings: the Far West (British Columbia and Alberta); the Midwest (Saskatchewan and Manitoba); the Middle (Ontario and Québec) and the East (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador). Provinces made very different choices on these elements, based on their individual history, devolution timing, and their political culture/dynamics. To compare provinces, I used efficiency, effectiveness and democracy as criteria. Considering all of these elements and criteria, Québec’s PES choices provide a best practices model that the rest of Canada should examine more closely and potentially emulate.

    On the second question, in 2015 almost triple the number of Canadians were served compared to 1995 when the Government of Canada was directly responsible. However, this change needs to be read in conjunction with a change in the programming provided: from more expensive long term interventions (including training) to less expensive ‘light touch’ employment assistance services. The change in programming was an outcome of the indicators chosen by Ottawa following the 1995/96 EI reform as well as the fact that ─ other than for two years during the 2008/09 economic downturn ─ there was no increase in federal funding. Even with this change in programming emphasis, federal evaluation studies carried out over the years have consistently demonstrated the positive impact of provincial and Aboriginal oversight of the PES.

    On the third and fourth questions examined in the book, stay tuned to my next blog posting. A preview of challenges and suggestions for change were detailed in a submission I made to federal/provincial/territorial governments in 2016 as part of their consultations on the labour market transfer agreements. Take a look at the Caledon Institute of Social Policy version of my thoughts published in 2016 as Strengthening Canada’s Public Employment Service Post Devolution. I’ll bring these issues forward to 2018 in my next blog posting.

    Federalism in Action: The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015 is now available for purchase.

    [1] PES arrangements in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut were not examined in the book.

    The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 2

  • April and May Round-up

    Highlights from the month of April and May.

    Awards:

    Conferences:

    • Daniel Quinlan and Matt Buntin represented UTP at the International Studies Association’s annual conference in San Francisco.
    • Jodi Lewchuk showcased our Urban Studies list at the Urban Affair Association’s annual meeting. She also represented UTP at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in New Orleans.
    • Meg Patterson was in New York City for the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference.
    • Stephen Shapiro represented the press at the annual meeting of the Association for the Studies of Nationalities.
    • Anna Del Col, Natalie Fingerhut, and Suzanne Rancourt were in Kalamazoo, MI for the International Congress on Medieval Studies.
    • Jodi Lewchuk was in Los Angeles for the annual meeting of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.\
    • Meg Patterson showcased our Health and Humanities list at the Indigenous Health Conference in Mississauga.
    • We showcased our latest social sciences and humanities titles at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Regina, SK.
    • Jane Kelly represented the press at Book Expo America in New York City.

    Media Highlights:

     

    New Releases:

  • An excerpt from 'Homophobia in the Hallways' by Tonya D. Callaghan

    On a cold day in March 2011, an inconspicuous, unremarkable group of students at St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, did something remarkable, something that, in their school – indeed in Catholic schools across Canada at the time – was unthinkable. They requested permission to establish a club, a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) club in their school. To the unenlightened eye, their action appeared small, routine even. It was a logical request for an in-school club whose focus would be to make the school a safe space for lgbtq students and their straight allies by raising awareness about, and so hopefully reducing, school-based homophobia. It was not even an original idea; GSAs had originated in the United States almost 25 years before. Unbeknown to these students, they would soon be taking on a significant battle for Canadian LGBTQ rights. Their actions set off a series of events that would reverberate across the country.

    The students quickly learned that St Joseph’s school was not ready for such a club. A maelstrom ensued. The students, led by 16-year-old Leanne Iskander, encountered strong opposition first from their principal and then from administrators at the district level. By June, they remained in a standoff. The students vowed to continue their fight in the next school term.

    The establishment of a GSA in a secular Canadian public school barely seems an issue worth noting, judging by the lack of media stories about such attempts. There is, in fact, no formal mechanism in place to ban GSA clubs in non-religious public schools. Starting a GSA club in a secular public school has often, though not always, proved no more controversial than setting up an anti-racism or debate club. Students who join a GSA in a non-religious school have the right to broadcast their club meeting schedule over the school’s public address system, actively solicit other students for their club using posters and other means, meet on school property, and name their club a GSA without any concern over the use of the word gay. Note that publicly funded separate Catholic schools are accountable to civil, not church, authorities. Religious bodies do not have a constitutional or legal interest in separate schools, and, as such, Canadian Catholic separate schools are not private or parochial schools as many are in other countries.

    In Canadian Catholic schools, such as St Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, however – a publicly funded school, I must emphasize – Leanne Iskander and friends’ request to establish such a club was rejected outright more than once and caused serious alarm, not only for the administrators of St Joseph’s but also for its school district, the Ontario bishops, and the Ontario provincial government.

    The increasingly public battle between this particular group of students in St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School and their Catholic school administrators is significant because it represents the growing discontent between publicly funded Canadian Catholic schools and Canadian society at large. In Canada, same-sex legal rights have been steadily advancing – in 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize marriage equality nationwide (Rayside, 2008) – and Canadian gay Pride parades regularly attract millions of tourist dollars. In the publicly funded Canadian Catholic school system, however, advances in same-sex legal rights have been virtually non-existent. When trying to determine how to manage the existence of lgbtq people (students, teachers, aids, and support staff included) in Canadian Catholic schools, Catholic education leaders turn to Catholic doctrine rather than to their legal authority – Canadian human rights law. Catholic doctrine describes “homosexual acts” as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered” and count among the list of “sins gravely contrary to chastity” (cited in Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops [OCCB], 2004a, p. 53). Needless to say, relying on Catholic doctrine as a guide for curricular and policy decisions makes Canadian Catholic schools hotbeds for homophobia.

  • Horse Pills: A New Therapy for Those Suffering from PTSD

    Written by guest blogger, Ellen Kaye Gehrke.

    Happy Trails, photo of a man petting a horse

    Although we just had our paper published in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, it really does not address the deepest issues around PTSD and what horses can do to instigate and sustain healing from trauma. We did capture some great quantitative information and demonstrated that the health of the Veterans substantially improved with exposure and connection to horses. We also were happy to discover the significance when we measured their positive affect as to how much more confident they were feeling about themselves. Those of us who regularly work with horses and have a philosophy of horse as partner already knew what we had to prove with evidence. The true benefit was witnessing the transformation of the Veterans as they safely, and in their own way, stripped away layer upon layer of pain, suffering, isolation, self-doubt, disconnection and silent suffering and were comforted and reinforced by their heart connection with their horses. The program was not just about riding- it was about feeling whole again with the help of horses and a genuinely caring group of wranglers, instructors, fellow veterans, and, of course, some amazing open hearted horses.

    We are writing another article that includes the qualitative results. Veterans kept a weekly journal answering specific questions about the topic of discovering and healing each week and wrote their thoughts, reflections and insights. These provided far more power to our research and allow us to dive deeper into how horses really do give the support and confidence for the journey back from some dark places Veterans go who are suffering from PTSD and TBI.

    One particular quote from a Veteran who had been contemplating suicide gave us the goose bumps when they wrote: “I look forward each week to being with (name of horse) than to being in heaven.”

    Stay tuned. We will be glad to answer any questions about the program and the results to the readers. Meanwhile we recommend Horse Pills over other medications for relief of PTSD.

    Happy Trails,
    Dr. Ellen Kaye Gehrke

    Ellen Kaye Gehrke, PhD, is the program director of the Masters of Science in Complementary and Integrative Health, and is a Professor of Health Sciences in the School of Health and Human Services, National University, San Diego, California. “Measuring the psychophysiological changes in combat Veterans participating in an equine therapy program” can be found in the latest issue of the completely open access Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health. Read it online here.

  • An excerpt from 'Prairie Fairies' by Valerie J. Korinek

    Prairie Fairies makes a contribution to a small but important literature analysing the history of gay liberationist activism in Canada and of the ways that Canadian activism was inspired by – and aware of – American developments, while differing from them in important ways.  Importantly, in a context where, as Miriam Smith has argued, the “national” movement was never more than a “set of loose networks … rather than a coherent actor,” local queer organizations were the source of most activities. The prairies thriving activist scenes, in Winnipeg and Saskatoon in particular, would play an important role in generating local activism and contributing to the “national” liberationist scene. Westerners played a more significant role than earlier pan-national works have acknowledged, including [the fact] that western activist groups hosted three of the eight national gay and lesbian conferences held between 1973 and 1980.

    Gay liberationist strategies and tactics continued to be articulated and used in the west well into the mid-1980s. At a time when many central Canadian organizations would shift to “rights talk” and legal “equality seeking” in the early to mid-1980s, westerners continued with various platforms of the liberationist strategies, including consciousness-raising, education, and human rights matters when they arose. Taking a historical, regional approach to gay and lesbian activism captures continuity and change, offers more perspective into social actors and local organizations, and deepens our knowledge of the breadth of regional queer political work. It was AIDS that changed the focus of western Canadian activist organizations, as well as activist migrations and burnout, not a shift to “rights” talk in the advent of the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    By 1985, AIDS had arrived in all the prairie cities and this plague dramatically transformed the organizational, activist, and queer communities in the various cities, as attention turned from liberationist goals to medical advocacy and support. Hopefully, future historians will research and write that social history. The connections and debates fostered about health, politics, sexuality, and relations between lesbians and gay men post-AIDS offers another vantage point on questions about place, sexuality, and queer politics. AIDS conclusively ended any anachronistic or utopian notion that prairie cities were not home to sizable populations of lesbians and gays, or that LGBT residents would be content to be second-class citizens with respect to medical care, political representation, or basic human rights protections.

    From 1930 to 1985, Prairie Fairies demonstrates that queer people created communities; fostered social, educational and social service opportunities; and, indeed, created spaces for prairie residents to be gay or lesbian. People found pockets of urban spaces in which to be queer – this became a precursor to formal politics for some individuals, but also a way to assert a political identity in a place constantly trying to ignore, silence, or eradicate such differences. Putting the queer westerners back into the modern history of prairie cities and prairie societies reclaims important literal and historical space for prairie queer people, and moves them from the margins to the centre of the historical frame. From the 1930s through to the mid-1980s, queer westerners were part of vibrant queer and straight communities, and stories of these “mavericks” ironically fit beautifully within the prairie historiography at the very same time that their existence challenges everything we thought we knew about these provinces.

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