Alberta NDP's new job creation grant under fire

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says Alberta’s new job creation incentive grant is the "laughing stock" of the province’s business community.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean criticized the NDP's new job creation incentive grant in question period Thursday. (CBC )

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean says Alberta's new job creation incentive grant is being mocked by the province's business community.

"The NDP is plowing ahead with risky economic experiments, and their so-called $5,000 jobs grant is a laughing stock among the business community in Alberta.," Jean said during Thursday's question period. "No one believes it will create one single job."

The two-year, $178-million program was introduced as part of the provincial budget Tuesday.

The government will grant up to $5,000 to any business, charity or non-profit organization that creates a new full-time job over the next two years. Finance Minister Joe Ceci said the program could create up to 27,000 jobs a year.

But Jean said the program will do nothing to replace the thousands of jobs lost in the resource sector due to dropping energy prices, including the 200 that were cut by Devon Energy this week.

Premier Rachel Notley said the job incentive is based on a similar program introduced by the federal Conservatives. She said Jean voted in favour of that program when he was a federal Conservative MP.

Jean isn't the only person expressing doubts about the program.

 Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge was lukewarm about the effectiveness of the plan when he was asked about it on budget day.

"It sounds great on paper, it's a great idea in theory,"  he said. "[It's] very hard to manage to be sure that you are actually getting much incremental employment.

"In theory, it's the right thing to do. It's just very hard to deliver."

Employment Minister Lori Sigurdson said while she appreciates Dodge's input, the government will ensure the program works well.

At this point, very little is known about how it will work, beyond that it will be first-come, first-served, as details are still being worked out.

Separate pots of money will be set aside for non-profit organizations, charities, and small, medium and large businesses.

However, Sigurdson wasn't able to say how the government would distinguish between jobs created under the job incentive grant and jobs created because companies won construction contracts under the province's aggressive new infrastructure plan.