CANADA ALBERTA JOB GRANT NEEDS TO ALLOW FOR FAMILY BUSINESS APPLICANTS
MAY 27, 2019
POLICY FROM THE LACOMBE & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE POLICY COMMITTEE
In its current format, immediate family of company owners are ineligible to receive funding for any training through the Canada Alberta Job Grant. This includes adult children who are actively contributing to the business who may or may not already have a management role, or who intend to take over management or ownership in the future.
The Canada-Alberta Job Grant was created in October of 2014, with the goal of assisting business owners with recruitment and retention of employees through subsidized training. Individual employers have a cap of $300,000 per year, with a $10,000 cap on any existing individual employee. The cap is raised to $15,000 if the employer was hiring an Albertan who was not currently employed.
Since its establishment, an average of 1750 unique employers have accessed the program each year. “In 2017/2018, more than 10,000 Albertans participated in training through the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, which was launched in 2014. In its fourth year, Canada-Alberta Job Grants totaling $19.1 million were committed to 2,140 employers. Of the 10,650 that participated in training, 99 per cent were employed prior to commencing training.”
A statement from the Applicant Guide reads: “The Canada-Alberta Job Grant (CAJG) is an employer-driven program that helps employers invest in training for their current and future employees. The goals of the CAJG are to increase participation of Albertans in the labour force by helping them develop the skills they need to find and keep a job. The CAJG is also an opportunity for employers to invest in training that is better aligned to job opportunities.”
The concern raised by business owners is regarding the eligibility requirements; namely, the exclusion of ‘immediate family of the company owners’. This exclusion is prohibitive to many businesses who would benefit from this program. According to research by the Alberta Business Family Institute (ABFI), “family-owned business generates approximately 60% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product; employs 6 million workers in Canada (both full time and part time); creates 70% of all new jobs in North America and provides 55% of all charitable donations.”
Even though family-owned business has such a large impact on the Canadian (and Albertan) economies, 70% fail before being passed onto the second generation. Would these businesses not benefit from the same program that was developed in order to “help(s) employers invest in training for their current and future employees.”?
After 4 full years and several thousands of employers and employees benefiting from the Canada Alberta Job Grant, it can be said that it is a worthwhile program, but a large segment of Albertan employees does not have the opportunity to further their training or education because they have chosen to be part of their family-owned business and/or succession plan.
As stated in the Diversity and Inclusion Policy found on the Government of Alberta website, the GOA focuses on making equality, fairness and inclusivity within the workplace a primary concern. The proposed changes to this grant are in line with those priorities. All employees are subject to the same requirements when it comes to taxes, worker’s compensation, and others in the attempt to achieve fairness in the workplace; Family farms are a great example of this after recent changes to the ‘Enhanced Protection for Farm Protection Act’. Our goal simply, is to ensure fairness to all employees by changing the ineligibility clause for immediate family of business owners. We don’t recommend preferential treatment, we recommend fair treatment.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta:
- Change the eligibility requirements to allow family members who are meaningfully employed and those who are self-employed in a business to access funding.
Efficiency and Consistency within Administrative Processes
POLICY PROPOSAL FROM THE LACOMBE & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE POLICY COMMITTEE
Some members have reported negative experiences while seeking permits for existing or new business development. Information given from City staff was at times inconsistent; causing confusion and unnecessary delays, which have a negative impact. Feedback gathered indicated that some businesses had experienced an unwelcoming environment at City Hall which adds to the potential of deterring new developers who are considering Lacombe. A cumbersome process and a less than positive experience leads to frustration in the least, and redirected investment at worst.
We conducted a policy priority survey of our members over the period of several months and received feedback surrounding administrative processes for permitting and licensing at City Hall. 35% of the respondents spoke directly to these concerns of inconsistency and cumbersome demands that set us apart in a negative way from other communities that are being considered for investment. New and existing businesses reportedly received conflicting information from staff, depending on the department they spoke with. It should be noted, that in conversation with several local businesses, board directors and staff heard that the process when dealing with the Community and Economic Development Manager was far smoother than for those who went directly to City Hall. As “A Collective Voice Advocating Growth and Prosperity”, the local Chamber wishes to work with the City Council and Administration to develop streamlined processes that are consistent and efficient. Improvements will encourage current business owners to pursue renovations, or development of current businesses and can be used to attract and keep prospective businesses in Lacombe. We want to see Lacombe as a leader in permitting efficiency and to set an example to our regional counterparts on the most effective way to support our economy. These challenges are not an adequate reason for the City of Lacombe to be losing out on opportunities to other communities. Current and prospective business owners are our customers and they have the potential to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into our local economy. We want to see Lacombe set the standard on how these visitors to City Hall are received and treated throughout the process; from investigation, through to approval and beyond.
The Lacombe & District Chamber of Commerce recommends that the City of Lacombe:
1- Direct the Community and Economic Development Manager to work with the Lacombe Chamber to create a working document that all administration is trained in and follow when speaking with or helping new or existing business owners. This document would outline best practices, the order of the intended process and other relevant information.
2- Consider allocating future budget dollars to facilitate a role like the Community and Economic Development Manager with the responsibility of helping business owners with policy and administration processes with the City of Lacombe. This would help to alleviate pressure on existing positions.
3- Review permits, policies and administration processes for businesses to ensure they are consistent.
4- Put a priority on becoming a ‘client-centric’ culture, receiving permit and license applicants with enthusiasm and encouragement. 5- Streamline the permitting process to eliminate the need for an applicant to return several times to City Hall and reduce the amount of duplicate information that is currently required on several different applications for one project. One small example of this would be to have a “one step” process that allows an applicant to apply for one permit that covers more than one component of a project e.g. a commercial building development that includes signage on the building.