Alberta’s surplus is projected to be $13.2 billion in 2022-23, which will lead to lower taxes, debt reduction and $3 billion in savings, Premier Jason Kenney has revealed in a surprise announcement on Tuesday afternoon.
His finance minister, Jason Nixon, is due to give a full financial update on Wednesday.
“We promised Albertans we would get our finances in order. We kept our promises – and now we’re putting more money back in your pockets,” Kenney tweeted.
“I am pleased to announce that Alberta will index personal income taxes to inflation, retroactive to the 2022 tax year.”
Kenney said the government will use $13.4 billion to pay down the provincial debt and hide another $3 billion in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. UCP has already committed about $2 billion in gas and utility rebates.
After Saskatchewan announced $500 “Moe money” checks last week, there is speculation that Alberta could eventually do the same.
It’s been 17 years since Albertans received $400 checks known as “Ralph bucks,” but Kenney didn’t mention the excess checks on Tuesday.
“Certainly give money to everyone. Everyone likes to receive money, it’s back to school, everyone likes to shop,” said Maria Defouw who was running near the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday .
“ALBERTANS CERTAINLY DON’T SEE THE ADVANTAGE”
The NDP is calling for a “massive suspension of fees”. Her deputy leader said she’s not against sending excess checks to Albertans, but doesn’t think they’ll actually help families pay for themselves.
“As long as the government keeps raising fees, they can send checks, but that money won’t stay in people’s pockets because the government is taking it back,” Sarah Hoffman told reporters in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.
The NDP was calling on the government to re-index personal income taxes before Kenney announced this commitment.
New Democrats want the government to cut tuition fees, reduce camping fees and cap tuition fee increases. Hoffman suggested increasing benefits for the severely disabled (AISH) as well as for the elderly and families with children.
She also said caps on auto insurance and utilities would help Albertans struggling to pay their bills.
“Government policies had nothing to cause this windfall. It’s money that comes from growing global demand for resources that belong to all of us,” Hoffman said.
“But while we all have the resources, Albertans certainly don’t see the benefits.”
‘SAVE IT, SAVE IT, SAVE IT’
An Alberta-based economist didn’t know exactly what the surplus figure would be before Kenney announced it, but he expected it to be significant, based largely on energy prices.
“If I hear 8 to 10 (billion) dollars, my eyebrows are not going to raise,” said economist Moshe Lander, who works at Concordia University (Montreal).
Lander said $500 checks, as Saskatchewan promised to deliver in October, would cost Alberta about $2 billion. The UCP could afford to do it now, just like Ralph Klein’s PCs did in 2005, but Lander thinks they shouldn’t.
“It was a bad economy then, it’s a bad economy now… When you give people money, it doesn’t create lasting benefits. inflation is itself inflationary and should be avoided,” Lander said.
The best thing to do, he believes, is to “save, save, save”.
He thinks other jurisdictions like Norway and Alaska have managed their resource wealth more wisely, accumulating far greater savings than Alberta’s trust fund, which was valued at around $18.7 billion. tuesday.
“Norway, which is smaller than Alberta in almost every way imaginable, and they have a sovereign wealth fund that’s approaching $1 trillion, where we’ve wasted more money than they have,” Lander explained. .
“HELPS PEOPLE GET OUT OF THEIR PROBLEMS”
Others want the money spent on government programs. Mike Fuller, who was strolling near the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, believes it would be better to invest in counseling and legal aid than to have surplus checks.
“It can help people individually, of course. But having a system that can help people out of their problems (that would be better). We’ve had two years of terrible livelihoods for everyone,” Fuller said. at CTV News Edmonton.
James Thistle, who was running in the River Valley on Tuesday, is in favor of increased health care spending.
“Wait times, communication just seems non-existent with the health care system here in Alberta. I think that could really take some work,” he said.
Thistle also wants the government to scrap the Kananaskis Conservation Pass, which costs outdoor enthusiasts like him $90 a year to visit the foothills and mountains near Calgary.
“It’s nature. I don’t think we should keep nature with a financial fee,” he said.
With files from Joe Scarpelli of CTV News Edmonton