Upon the release of Alberta’s budget on Oct. 27th, Premier Rachel Notley a few details of the upcoming Job Creation Incentive Program were announced.
The program stated the Alberta government wished to support employers who create new jobs in the province during a period of higher unemployment and weaker oil prices.
Press releases for the program state it will encourage hiring by providing grants to employers for creating new employment on or after January 1, 2016.
“Albertans have asked our government to support good local jobs as we grow and diversify our economy. We are following through on our promise to work with businesses so that they can create new jobs and support families during these tough economic times,” said Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour during a televised news conference regarding the new program.
Grants will be worth up to $5,000 for each new job, with a cap for employers in the program of 100 new full-time jobs meaning employers could be eligible for up to $500,000. Grants will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. Small, medium and large businesses as well as registered charities and non-profits are alleligible for the grant.
While Sigurdson stated during the news conference she feels it will help to create new jobs, a representative from the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce and local business owner, Michael Williams is unsure of the implications the program will have on job creation.
“From a Chamber perspective it’s really too early to tell – they didn’t release enough details to tell us how it will work,” said Williams during an interview with SylvanLake News. “Let’s say we are basing it on a $25,000 a year job, is that only going to qualify for a $2,500 grant?”
“Personally I don’t think that’s enough to stimulate anyone to hire someone they weren’t already going to hire.”
Williams stated he doesn’t see the grant so much as a ‘job creator’, but rather as a reward for hiring someone you were likely already going to hire.
“I see it as more of a token or gesture to compensate the increase in small business tax, the minimum wage increase – if that’s really what the provincial government wanted it to be then fine, but they should just say what it is,” stated Williams. “I see it as them trying to minimize some of the damage they have done – it’s essentially them giving to us with their left hand and taking out of our pockets with their right.”
“If you hike the minimum wage, it’s going to cost jobs – we understand the social implications it will have on quality of life but as businesses who employ those peopleat minimum wage it’s not going to have the affect they hope it will. The small business tax on top of that – it’s going to force us to hire less people and make ourexisting employees work harder and it’s not going to make us hire more people.”
Williams feels the program should have been released with full details.
“Thousands of people are out of work, then they roll out this program that really just looks like it was put together over beers the night before the budget drops,” saidWilliams. “It seems as if Lori Sigurdson walked into a room with her staff and said ‘Hey team, I’m in the hot seat here and we need something quick,’ then some onejust ball parks the idea of ‘Well hey, let’s give them a hiring grant – maybe $5,000 and if we do it for enough people then it will sound like a really big number. Then if any one asks a question we will just say the details are forthcoming’.”
“What I’m waiting for is someone to ask the question of how it’s possible they had three or four months to create this program and they still don’t have details released for the program – how is that not going to make us think they just put it together over the weekend?”
Williams added even former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge – hired by the Notley government to help craft parts of the budget – told reporters the grant programs are great in theory but hard to operate.
Other critics of the program include Wildrose Leader Brian Jean who stated during a press conference, “When you look at all the unanswered questions — and there are many — and all the opportunities for waste and fraud and abuse, frankly, it’s scary.”
Notley replied to concerns by stating, “Our government is committed to doing a number of different things to create jobs, to incent jobs, to work with our partners inthe business community to kick-start this economy to be the shock absorbers when the economy slows down.”
Notley added 70 per cent of Albertans polled on the Oct. 27 budget approve of the NDP’s job-creation plan.