The province's $260-million loan to Irving Shipbuilding will be forgivable if the shipyard and its direct sub-contractors create 4,000 jobs in Nova Scotia, CBC News has learned.

Irving will repay the loan at a commercial rate of interest if it doesn't meet those job targets.

The Department of Economic Development said the 4,000 jobs will be created over the 29-year life of the agreement.

The NDP government defends the arrangement on the basis the shipbuilding work will generate $2.8 billion in tax revenue for the province.

The government's assistance package, revealed in March 2012, includes the forgivable loan worth up to $260 million and a repayable loan of $44 million for human resources, technological, and industrial development.

Irving said the company needed provincial support to be the winning bidder for the federal $25-billion shipbuilding contract to build 21 combat vessels.

The contract is expected to maintain a steady flow of work at the Halifax Shipyard over the next 20 to 30 years.

Opposition politicians have criticized the government loan for being too generous and for not releasing its terms and conditions.

At the time the Canadian Taxpayers Federation questioned the government's decision to give more public funding to a company that has landed the lion's share of the largest military procurement in Canada's history.

CBC News has filed a freedom-of-information request for the terms and conditions of the loan to Irving Shipbuilding.

In 2012, a Conference Board of Canada study said Nova Scotia could benefit from an average of 8,400 indirect jobs between 2012 and 2030, peaking at 11,500 jobs during the program’s busiest years.

It forecast the workforce at the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard would more than double to 2,500 people during peak.