Backgrounder: The Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs)


Changing demands of the workplace

Canada is home to a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, but rapid technological change and globalization are accelerating the need to learn and develop new skills. As the demands of the workplace change, so too must the skills that workers bring to their jobs. The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that both employers and governments are more responsive to workers’ needs.

The new and amended agreements were developed from broad-based consultations with more than 700 stakeholders on how to expand and improve skills training and employment supports for Canadians.

Workforce Development Agreements

The new Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs) consolidate the Canada Job Fund Agreements, the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (expired March 2018) and the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (expired March 2017). In addition to the $722 million provided annually to provinces and territories under the WDAs, Budget 2017 added $900 million over a period of six years from 2017–18 to 2022–23. The new funding will also support provincial and territorial employment programming for older workers, previously supported by the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers.

These agreements provide provinces and territories with the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of their respective clients, both employers and individuals, which include members of under-represented groups.

Labour Market Development Agreements

Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) are bilateral agreements with each province and territory to design and deliver employment programming similar to the employment benefits and support measures outlined in Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. LMDAs help Canadians quickly find jobs and return to work. They also ensure a skilled labour force capable of meeting the current and emerging needs of employers.

Budget 2017 proposed measures to expand eligibility to help more Canadians access skills training and employment assistance under the amended LMDAs. These measures involve:   

  • investing an additional $1.8 billion in LMDAs over six years;
  • broadening eligibility for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits (e.g. skills training, wage subsidies) to include unemployed individuals who have made minimum EI premium contributions in at least 5 of the last 10 years;
  • expanding eligibility for employment assistance services (e.g. employment counselling, job search assistance), previously only available to unemployed Canadians, to also include employed Canadians; and
  • increasing flexibility for provinces and territories to support employer-sponsored training under labour market partnerships (e.g. to help employers who need to upskill their workers to adjust to technological or structural changes in the economy).

The Government of Canada, as part of Budget 2018 commitments, announced $230 million to better assist workers in seasonal industries, including:

  • an additional $41 million over two years, which began in 2018–19, to all provinces and territories through their LMDAs to provide skills training, wage subsidies and employment supports for workers in seasonal industries; and
  • $189 million to implement a pilot project to provide up to five additional weeks of EI regular benefits to eligible seasonal claimants in 13-targeted EI regions. These additional weeks will be available to those who start a benefit period between August 5, 2018, and May 30, 2020.

Budget 2019

The Government of Canada makes significant investments in skills development—close to $7.5 billion annually—across more than 100 distinct programs, ranging from programs for literacy and essential skills and apprenticeships, to those that assist newcomers to Canada in entering the labour market. Almost $3 billion of this programming is delivered in partnership with the provinces, territories and Indigenous groups, and targets students and Canadians who are unemployed.

To help working Canadians get the skills they need to succeed in our ever-changing world, Budget 2019 proposed the new Canada Training Benefit, a flexible option for finding the time and the money needed to pursue training, improve skills, and build strong and lasting careers.

Canada Training Benefit

The Canada Training Benefit could give workers a refundable tax credit on their income tax and benefit return to help offset tuition costs for training, provide income support during training, and offer job protection so that workers can take the time they need to gain in-demand skills and upgrade their existing skills. The benefit would include:

  • the Canada Training Credit, which is a new refundable tax credit that allows eligible workers to receive $250 per year towards their training amount limit, up to a lifetime limit of $5,000, to help fund future eligible tuition and fees;
  • the Employment Insurance Training Support Benefit that would provide eligible workers with up to four weeks of income support, paid at 55 percent of average weekly insurable earnings, to be taken within a four-year period when they require time off work to train;
  • the EI Premium Rebate for Small Businesses, which would offset the upward pressure on EI premiums resulting from the new EI Training Support Benefit; and
  • new leave provisions under the Canada Labour Code that would allow federally regulated workers to take time away from work to pursue training and receive the EI Training Support Benefit without risk to their job security.

The Canada Training Benefit will be available to millions of Canadian workers. It is estimated that approximately 600,000 Canadians will claim the Canada Training Credit each year. The uptake of the EI Training Support Benefit will depend on its final design.

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