Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives grant, will double workforce for company

WINNIPEG – Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the first grant under the contentious Canada Jobs Grant program is going to a Winnipeg company.

Harper was in the Manitoba capital Friday touting the grant which will allow Oxygen Technical Services, an IT company for small businesses, to provide training to its 15 employees and hire seven new people.

“It’s something we’re doing with both levels of government, obviously with the co-operation of institutes like this,” Harper said at a photo-op at the Manitoba Institute for Trades and Technology. “Congratulations to this company.”

Premier Greg Selinger said Manitoba is proud to be the first recipient of the grant after drawn-out negotiations between Ottawa and the provinces.

Provinces had initially rejected the Conservatives’ national training program because it didn’t give them enough flexibility. All provinces and territories signed on after they reached a compromise following protracted negotiations with the federal government earlier this year.

“We had several backs-and-forths on that but we got to a place where we’ve structured it in such a way that it’s a win for everybody, particularly people that want good jobs anywhere in Canada,” Selinger said. “We’re pleased to be the first in Canada.”

Manitoba is seeing a huge demand for the program because there are many small- and medium-sized businesses in the province looking for more skilled workers, Selinger said. The grant also applies to some Crown corporations and the non-profit sector, he added.

The federal and provincial governments are giving Oxygen Technical Services $37,000 while the company itself is kicking in $18,000.

Jason Kenney, minister of employment and social development, said the company contribution requirement of the program means businesses have something at stake.

“This is not just a grant or subsidy to businesses,” he said following the announcement in Winnipeg. “This is trying to get them to invest more.”