NDP to help small tech companies to help diversify economy

A day after the Wildrose called on the government to set up a jobs summit to examine the impact of its policies on the Alberta economy, the NDP fired back, announcing more money to help out start-up tech companies.

$5M to go to voucher program run by agency at centre of CBC investigation

Deron Bilous, Alberta's economic development minister, announces additional funding and more advisers to help develop small tech companies Thursday. (CBC)

A day after the Wildrose called on the government to set up a jobs summit to examine the impact of its policies on the Alberta economy, the NDP fired back, announcing more money to help out start-up tech companies.

Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said the government is putting another $5 million towards helping small and medium-sized tech companies grow as part of a greater effort to diversify the province's economy.

The money, already accounted for in the 2015 budget, will go to the Enhanced Innovation Voucher support program, delivered by Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, an agency at the centre of a CBC investigation for high salaries and lavish expense claims.

The May 2015 story revealed:

The CEOs of Alberta Innovates' four branches received between $338,000 and $479,000 in total compensation;

  • Six executives at the Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions branch received total compensation of between $154,000 and $242,000;
  • Seven executives at the Technology Futures branch of Alberta Innovates were paid a total of between $272,000 and $364,000.
  • Through freedom of information, CBC News obtained documents showing expenses claimed by some Alberta Innovates executives.

In August 2015, Alberta's auditor general issued a report which revealed seven instances where managers from Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures and Innovation doctored bids to favour a preferred candidate in IT contracts each worth more than $100,000.

Asked Thursday how he assured himself Alberta Innovates could responsibly administer the additional public funding, Bilous said "reviews are underway to ensure that Albertans get the best value for their dollar and we completely recognize that tax dollars are very hard-earned dollars and we need to be prudent with them."

He specifically defended the voucher program, saying it has created a number of "success stories" and many companies wouldn't exist were it not for the program.

Bilous said the province expects to almost double the number of vouchers issued to more than 200 companies in the next few years.

The number of advisers will double to 12 to help companies with technology, business and financial advice.

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