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Alberta unveils tax credit to lure 2,000 skilled tradespeople to the province

Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner, right, and Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones explain proposed legislative changes that would allow the expansion of the film and television tax credit and create an tax incentive for skilled tradespeople. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner, right, and Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones explain proposed legislative changes that would allow the expansion of the film and television tax credit and create an tax incentive for skilled tradespeople. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government has narrowed its plan to attract skilled workers to the province by offering a new tax credit that will only apply to skilled tradespeople.

Jobs, Economy and Trade Minister Matt Jones says the Alberta is Calling program, launching in April, will offer a one-time $5,000 refundable tax credit to tradespeople who move to the province in 2024 and file that year's taxes in Alberta.

Alberta programs are not training skilled tradespeople as quickly as the market needs them, Jones said at a Tuesday news conference.

"Skilled trades workers are key to building Alberta today and tomorrow," Jones said. "From homes to hospitals to schools to large-scale capital infrastructure, they are needed by the thousands."

The $10-million program will be capped at 2,000 workers, according to government officials at a briefing Tuesday. The credits will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

The proposed program is a marked departure from what the United Conservative Party promised in May 2023 during the  provincial election campaign.

At that time, party leader Danielle Smith pledged a $1,200 payment to in-demand health-care and child-care workers along with skilled tradespeople, under a $17-million program as part of a broader job and economic growth strategy.

The UCP projected 14,000 people moving to Alberta would qualify in a year, and promised to offer the incentive to those who moved to the province in 2023 and 2024.

The program announced Tuesday by Smith's government falls short of those promises.

In defending the changes, Jones said the government talked to industry and did other due diligence before deciding the program's parameters.

He said the $5,000 refundable credit would cover a family's moving costs and attract workers in short supply such as crane operators, electricians, heavy-duty mechanics, welders and pipefitters.

Targeting solely skilled tradespeople will make it easier to advertise the program, he said.

"We are doing exactly what we said we would do, which is introducing a bonus to attract workers," Jones told reporters.

Jones said the government has other programs and incentives to attract health and child-care workers, and added that the Alberta is Calling program could be expanded in the future to include other workers.

Mike Holden, chief economist and vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Alberta, says any additional incentives to bring more skilled tradespeople to the province will help.
Mike Holden, chief economist and vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Alberta, says any additional incentives to bring more skilled tradespeople to the province will help.

Mike Holden, chief economist and vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Alberta, says any additional incentives to bring more skilled tradespeople to the province will help. (Submitted by the Business Council of Alberta)

Mike Holden, chief economist and vice-president of policy for the Business Council of Alberta, said the challenge of recruiting skilled tradespeople in Alberta is gradually worsening as older workers retire and fewer young people seek out training.

Whether $5,000 is enough to lure those workers to the province likely depends on individual circumstances, he said.

"I think if you were considering a move to Alberta, this is something that could tip the scales," he said.

As a lower cost of living draws people to Alberta from more costly cities, the government must also ensure that public services and infrastructure like housing, hospitals and schools keep pace, Holden said.

NDP health critic Dr. Luanne Metz said the government broke a promise by excluding health-care workers from the incentive. Trailing the program in the skilled trades will not tell the province whether the incentive would be effective to recruit health professionals, she said.

"We're not competitive in our incentive programs," Metz said of health worker recruitment. "These incentive programs aren't working. We're not getting the numbers that we need. So, I think they need to up their game"

Expanding the film and TV tax credit

Finance Minister Nate Horne tabled a bill in the legislature on Tuesday introducing changes in the Alberta Personal Income Tax Act. The changes enable the Alberta is Calling tax credit, as well as other proposals from the 2024 provincial budget.

Bill 10, the Financial Statutes Amendment Act, also proposes amendments to the province's film and television tax credit program to give Alberta-based productions more flexibility.

The government wants to open up the credit to reality TV and game show productions, which currently don't qualify. Jones said these shows are typically filmed indoors and would help improve year-round use of Alberta production studios, which tend to be quiet in the winter.

Jones also plans to offer a "sweetener" in the form of a larger credit offered to companies that film 75 per cent or more of their production in rural and remote areas.

If passed, Bill 10 would also give production companies 120 days to apply for the tax credit once filming has begun, rather than requiring them to apply before filming starts.

The bill would also make other legal changes to fulfil provincial budget announcements, such as increasing the tax on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

As well, the changes would exempt the Alberta Carbon Capture Incentive Program from the province's fiscal management rules. Horner said it would allow the government to respond more nimbly when a company plans to make a major industrial investment in the province.