Alberta’s new jobs minister eyeing more investment tax credits

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Newly-appointed Alberta Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones is eyeing new tax credits to attract business investment to Alberta.

Premier Danielle Smith’s mandate letter to Jones, released Wednesday, was the first directive to be issued to 24 cabinet ministers who were appointed June 9.

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The mandate letter calls on Jones to develop incentive programs in sectors including forestry and manufacturing modelled after the Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit, first announced in February, which offers a 12 per cent credit on capital investments of more than $10 million.

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“I think we have the latitude to explore incentives where we don’t have them,” Jones said in an interview with Postmedia Wednesday. It follows the UCP’s election campaign promises of more programs similar to the Alberta Petrochemical Incentive Program, which falls under the energy ministry.

Jones, who has also been asked to work with Arts, Culture and Status of Women Minister Tanya Fir to support companies producing Alberta-made content, said the once-promised digital media tax credit for the video game sector is still on the table.

Last October, Smith’s mandate letter to Innovation and Technology Minister Nate Glubish directed him to develop a tax proposal for the video game companies, but February’s budget passed them over.

“We want to ensure that whatever incentive program is offered is calibrated correctly. We want to make sure that it is of net value to Albertans,” Jones said.

According to the recently-released jobs, economy and northern development 2022-23 annual report, the province saw 24 film and television productions get final approval for $26.7 million under its film and television tax credit. The report pegged the total value of investment at $353 million, with 68 productions authorized in the province.

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‘Still some confusion’ over union dues rules

With no labour minister in cabinet, the shepherding of labour relations, occupational health and safety, and workers’ compensation will fall to Jones, who said his focus will be on the prevention of workplace injuries.

Also on Jones’ to-do list are potential tweaks to the three-year-old Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act. The bill forces union members to opt-in to have their union dues spent on “non-core” union activities, such as political activities, social causes, or non-governmental organizations.

“There’s still some confusion over how those are defined, and somewhere in the mix of that confusion it’s been challenging, we’ve heard, to make charitable contributions through dues, so we’re going to be consulting,” Jones said.

But with labour shortages persisting in some sectors, Jones plans to follow through on the UCP’s election promise to implement a one-time bonus of at least $1,200 to high-demand workers who relocate to Alberta.

The latest provincial numbers show Alberta has been attracting the most interprovincial migration in the country, seeing a net gain of about 15,800 residents in the first three months of this year.

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It could be available to those working in health care, child care and other skilled trades, but the timeline and specifics of how exactly it would be rolled out, and for whom, remain up in the air.

“I’d like to make significant progress on this particular commitment over the next year,” said Jones.

Alberta Opposition NDP Jobs Economy and Trade critic Nathan Ip expressed disappointment in what he called the “unambitious platitudes” of the mandate letter, saying it lacked specifics. Ip said the $1,200 signing bonus falls far short of the $5,000 to $10,000 bonuses offered to health-care workers in places like Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“I fear it will not be enough to move the needle and improve staffing in our hospitals and rural health centres, especially at a time when there are more than 800,000 Albertans without access to a family doctor,” said Ip in a news release.

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