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Alberta Budget 2022 places focus on businesses


Alberta’s workforce is getting $600 million over three years, much of it aimed at training and retraining as part of the Alberta Budget

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Alberta is committing $600-million over three years to address labour shortages, much of it aimed at training and retraining.

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The Alberta at Work initiative will provide $72 million in capital and capital funding, with another $171 million to expand student enrolment in areas with identified skills shortages — including technology, agriculture, financial services and aviation — by creating 7,000 spaces. An additional $30 million is marked for apprenticeship expansion.

Skill development training and employment programs will get $64-million over three years, and $10 million in 2023-24 to address barriers to employment. This will be largely sector-specific with more details in the coming weeks, but could address labour issues in hospitality, tourism and retail.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said his discussions with business organizations and employers emphasized the need to retrain and re-skill the province’s workforce to address cross-sector labour shortages.

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“We’re focused on ensuring that Albertans have more opportunities, more job opportunities, perhaps more career opportunities in occupations that didn’t exist five years ago, as we take a look at the tech sector,” he said.

Annie Dormuth, Alberta provincial affairs director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, called the fiscal plan a “do-no-harm budget,” with no new taxes on business, but cited a lack of help for small businesses still under COVID-19 restrictions.

“Our top recommendation, to support small business through that, is to have on-the-job task training and that doesn’t really seem to be in the budget,” she said.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce was also hoping for something to address the struggles of small businesses in Alberta, many of which will remain under health restrictions until at least March 1.

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“We know that from a hospitality and tourism aspect, we are not seeing a recovery yet,” said Chamber president and CEO Deborah Yedlin. “We know the vacancy rates in the hotels are still really high and we know the restaurants have had a really tough time, as have some of the salons, as have the gyms — it has been a really, really tough time.

“So to not see any support to help these businesses to continue to move forward I think is going to be really disappointing for a lot of people.”

Calgary Chamber CEO Deborah Yedlin speaks with the media on Friday, November 19, 2021.
Calgary Chamber CEO Deborah Yedlin speaks with the media on Friday, November 19, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The government will also spend $390 million to upgrade rural and remote broadband access, including $320 million over three years to build high-speed networks. That’s an increase from the $150 million for the cost-shared project announced by the province in July.

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The budget also allocates $30 million over three years to address a severe shortage of truck drivers in Alberta. The Alberta Motor Transport Association has said previously there is a shortage of 4,500 drivers in the province.

Corporate taxes will remain at eight per cent and Toews said he expects this will generate $400 million more per year than the 12 per cent level in place before the UCP came into power.

The Alberta Film and Television Tax credit will get an $81-million boost over the next three years, including $71 million in 2022 to entice major TV and movie productions to use Alberta as a backdrop.

The province has also set aside $74 million in 2022 for the Innovation Employment Grant, which supports small- and medium-sized businesses that invest in research and development.

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Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer also pointed to an additional $175 million for the Alberta Enterprise Corp., doubling its size to $350 million.

“That has spurred the economy here in Alberta,” he said, adding the year-over-year growth of venture capital investment for startup companies in the province has grown from $100 million in 2018 to more than $500 million at the end of 2021.

Alberta Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer.
Alberta Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development is forecasting that crop insurance cost the province $2.8 billion in 2021-22 due to the drought across Western Canada. The province has budgeted an estimated $403.4 million for the fund this year, comparable to what was budgeted last year.

The province is also targeting $1.4 billion for investment in agribusiness in an attempt to create 2,000 jobs by 2023-24.

“We’re pretty pleased with the overall budget, but there’s a few storm clouds there if we don’t have a crop or cattle producers can’t feed their cows again in 2022,” said Tom Steve, general manager for the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission. “That’s where the rubber hits the road.”

jaldrich@postmedia.com
Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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