Alberta amending tax rules to offer $5,000 incentive to out-of-province workers

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has introduced legislation that would direct $10 million from this year’s budget toward luring more workers to the province.

The funds for the Alberta is Calling Attraction Bonus are aimed at bringing skilled tradespeople from elsewhere in Canada.

During the last election campaign, the United Conservative Party promised to offer at least $1,200 to newcomers who move to the province to work in high−demand jobs like health care and trades.

Premier Danielle Smith’s government now says instead it will amend the Alberta Personal Income Tax Act to introduce the Alberta is Calling Attraction Bonus to allow for a $5,000 refundable tax credit.

Matt Jones, the minister for jobs economy and trade, said the government determined the number should better reflect the true cost of relocation.

"In doing the work behind this program we determined the average moving costs for a Canadian, say from Ontario, to relocate to Alberta was around $5,000,” Jones, told a news conference Tuesday.

"To me that (original $1,200) was not enough of a benefit to attract or motivate a moving decision, so we of course moved that benefit up to what is $5,000 tax−free."

The program, first announced by former premier Jason Kenney in 2022, initially targeted Canadians living in Toronto and Vancouver.

Last year, it focused on Atlantic Canada and parts of Ontario to bring in workers, primarily in the staff−starved hotel and restaurant industries.

Jones said Alberta is facing shortages of skilled trades across the board, but said the priorities are electricians, pipefitters, heavy−duty mechanics, welders and crane operators.

He said he would like to deal with shortages in construction as well.

"Albertans need homes, they need schools, they need hospitals, and they need jobs,” he said.

“We’ve got tens of billions of dollars in capital investment that we have successfully won, and we must be able to deliver.”

Jones defended not using Alberta is Calling to attract health−care workers for now.

He said all provinces are facing health−care worker shortages and the provinces are trying to collaborate on solutions to benefit everyone.

He noted there are already incentive programs in place to attract doctors and cover the bridging and upgrading of nurses, such as those from the Philippines.

He said Alberta is Calling is open to revision.

"If this program is a success, we would look at leveraging it to other areas where we’re facing labour shortages — and certainly health care and child care are two prime examples,” Jones said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2024.

— by Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press

Photo: original $1,200