Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter used the backdrop of the Irving Shipyard to promote his government’s decision to provide the company a $260-million forgivable loan, saying it is necessary to foster job growth.
Dexter hosted a boat tour Tuesday to the Halifax shipyard championing his approach to create jobs in his bid to get re-elected. He said the financial support to Irving Shipbuilding, which is intended to help its shipyard carry out renovations so it can begin building new navy vessels, is an example of what’s needed to boost employment.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil has cited the loan as a failed policy decision and questioned the government’s rationale for handing out the assistance, a position Dexter said doesn’t take into account the tough environment Nova Scotia finds itself in for jobs.
“The simple fact of the matter is that if you do not compete, you are going to miss the opportunity to bring those jobs into the province,” said Dexter.
Dexter said government incentives to the private sector are necessary in order for Nova Scotia to compete against other provinces and jurisdictions across North America that are vying for the same jobs.
“Almost every other province in the country has far more beneficial incentive programs than we do.”
In October 2011, Ottawa awarded the Irving Shipyard a $25-billion contract to build 21 combat vessels. The federal government has said its decision was based on merit.
McNeil has said a Liberal government would not offer forgivable loans and any loans offered to corporations would carry conditions, such as job targets.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said Tuesday he wouldn’t provide non-repayable loans to large companies such as Irving Shipbuilding.
“What a Baillie government would offer to the Irvings and every other company equally and fairly is frozen power rates and lower taxes,” he said while campaigning in Halifax. “The Irvings pay power bills like everybody else.”
The election is Oct. 8.