11/07/2012 02:24 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

Nova Scotia agrees to $11.4M payroll rebate for Calgary engineering firm

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia has agreed to give $11.4 million to a Calgary-based engineering firm that plans to expand its Halifax office if its creates 440 jobs over the next five years.

Premier Darrell Dexter said Projex Technologies Ltd. would get the money in the form of a payroll rebate if it hits and retains that level of employment.

Dexter said the company, which would do work for the oil and gas sector in Alberta, intends to hire a mix of experienced engineers and university graduates.

"The hook that they use is that you can essentially do the work of Alberta in Nova Scotia," said Dexter.

Opposition Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the announcement makes sense if the jobs materialize, but it also raises concerns.

"Are you subsidizing one employer to take employees from someone else?" McNeil said. "I think that is what we will have to look at as it unfolds."

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he doesn't buy the NDP premier's assertion that the deal would help Nova Scotians return home to work.

"If the premier were serious about that, he wouldn't be picking winners and losers between engineering firms," Baillie said. "He'd be supporting the work of all Nova Scotia companies that want to bring people home."

Projex's clients include Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU), EnCana Corp., (TSX:ECA) and Nexen (TSX:NXY).