While high energy prices are hurting Albertans by boosting inflation, the Government of Alberta is reaping billions in windfall revenue from oil and gas production, prompting a myriad of ideas about how to spend it.
From paying down the provincial debt to socking away money in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to improving services to helping Albertans offset higher energy costs, candidates in the race to lead the United Conservative Party (UCP) have different priorities for the new cash.
Former Alberta Finance minister Travis Toews said he would prioritize savings and paying down debt “so future generations are not left paying for our mistakes.” Meanwhile, Leela Aheer would like to see more spending on healthcare and education, as well as savings in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
Brian Jean said he would like to see the surplus be used toward reducing utility fees for Albertans, while Danielle Smith favours paying down debt while providing relief for high energy costs.
So far, under the Kenney-led Government, Alberta has deployed some of the new cash by halting collecting the provincial gas tax, which decreased gas prices by approximately 13c/L. Additionally, all Albertans are receiving a $50 per month (for a total of $150) rebate to help cover the higher cost of electricity.
The province ended the fiscal year with a $3.9 billion surplus, of which $1.3 billion was used toward debt payments, after struggling with years of plunging revenue. In the summer of 2020, the government was potentially facing a $24 billion deficit because of oil prices that were, at one point in time, negative. With the price of crude recovering, some estimate that revenue from royalties could range from $10 billion to $25 billion this year.
But energy prices are notoriously volatile, and it wouldn’t take much for Alberta’s energy revenue to shrink again.
“I just think it’s important to remember that this could be our very last oil boom. We just don’t know,” said Leela Aheer, UCP MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore.
|Candidate||Proposal for Surplus|
|Brian Jean||Use some of the surplus money ($600 million) to cut fees (specifically power) down for customers|
|Jon Horsman||Split evenly between prosperity payments for Albertans, investments into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, debt repayment, and diversifying the provincial economy|
|Leela Aheer||Invest money into healthcare, education, and the Heritage Savings Trust Fund|
|Brian Jean||Pay off provincial debt and reduce transmission and distribution charges on electricity bills|
|Todd Loewen||Pay off provincial debt, lower taxes for the middle class, and find more efficiencies in healthcare|
|Rajan Sawhney||Pay off debt, put into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and start indexing age and seniors’ benefits alongside a reindexation of tax brackets|
|Rebecca Schulz||Pay down debt, invest in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, and “address affordability”|
|Danielle Smith||Pay down debt and assist with rising costs of gas, diesel and electricity|