The Limits and Possibilities of Privatization
by Shauna Butterwick
The privatization of government- funded labour market programs for women has significantly altered the context of job-entry training both for participants and trainers. This changing context has created both opportunities and constraints for women. In this overview, I want to summarize what I think is the government's rationale for privatization, outline some of the positive and negative consequences for women, suggest several strategies to address some concerns about the impact of privatization, and, finally, outline some of the activities undertaken by the Women's Reference Group on Labour Market Issues.
Although recent changes by the former Conservative government have intensified the process and attracted much critical attention to it, privatization is not a new initiative. Rather, it has been a part of federal labour market policy for the last three decades. For example, in 1967 the Liberal government introduced the Occupational Training Act which increased the federal government's authority over training and education and also allowed the government to deal directly with employers. In 1982, the National Training Act expanded the government's authority to purchase training from private as well as from public institutions, most notably the community colleges.
The privatization process moved forward rapidly in 1985 with the changes introduced by the Canadian Jobs Strategy (CJS). Before this, a significant portion of job training provided by community colleges had been federally funded. With CJS, a major change in funding took place, as funds were shifted away from these educational institutions toward private training agencies (both profit and not-for-profit) and employer-sponsored training.
With the introduction of the Labour Force Development Strategy (LFDS) in 1989, the process of privatization also I reached the spheres of policy-making and funding. Under the LFDS, the Unemployment Insurance Act was changed so that monies were "saved" by making it more difficult to obtain ill, and so that significantly more ill monies could be used to fund training (referred to as Developmental Uses funds).