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'Save it, save it, save it': Wish list growing as Alberta projects $13.2B surplus

Alberta's surplus is likely to be $13.2 billion in 2022-23 resulting in lower taxes, debt reduction and $3 billion in savings, premier Jason Kenney revealed in a surprise announcement Tuesday afternoon.

His finance minister, Jason Nixon, is scheduled to give a full financial update on Wednesday.

"We promised Albertans we would get our fiscal house back in order. We've delivered - and now we're putting more money back in your pockets," Kenney tweeted.

"I'm 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 reduce the provincial debt and stash another $3 billion in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund. The UCP has already committed about $2 billion in rebates on gas and utilities.

After Saskatchewan announced last week $500 "Moe money" cheques, there is speculation that Alberta may eventually do the same.

It's been 17 years since Albertans received $400 cheques known as "Ralph bucks," but Kenney did not mention surplus cheques on Tuesday.

"Definitely give everybody cash. Everyone likes getting money, it's back to school, everyone likes shopping," said Maria Defouw who was running near the Legislature on Tuesday.


The NDP is calling for a "massive fee holiday." Its deputy leader said she's not against writing surplus cheques to Albertans but doesn't think they'll actually help families with affordability.

"As long as the government keeps jacking up fees, they can send out cheques, but that money won't stay in people's pockets cause the government is taking it back," Sarah Hoffman told reporters at the legislature on Tuesday.

The NDP were calling on the government to re-index personal income taxes before Kenney announced that commitment.

The New Democrats want the government to cut school fees, reducing camping charges and cap tuition increases. Hoffman suggested increasing benefits for the severely handicapped (AISH) as well as for seniors and families with children.

She also said caps on car insurance and utilities would help Albertans struggling to pay bills.

"The government's policies had nothing to cause this windfall. This is money that comes as a result of surging global demand for the resources that belong to all of us," Hoffman said.

"But while we all own the resources, Albertans certainly aren't seeing the benefit."


An Alberta-based economist didn't know exactly what the surplus number would be before Kenney announced it, but he expected it to be a big one based largely on energy prices.

"If I hear $8-10 (billion) my eyebrows are not going to perk up," said economist Moshe Lander, who works at Concordia University (Montreal).

Lander said $500 cheques, like Saskatchewan promised to deliver in October, would cost Alberta about $2 billion. The UCP could afford to do it now, much like Ralph Klein's PCs did in 2005, but Lander believes they shouldn't.

"It was bad economics then, it's bad economics now…When you hand people money it doesn't create long-lasting benefits. Handing back more money in inflationary time is inflationary itself and should be avoided," Lander said.

The best thing to do, he believes, is to "save it, save it, save it."

He believes other jurisdictions like Norway and Alaska have handled their resource riches more wisely, building savings far bigger than Alberta's trust fund, which was valued at about $18.7 billion Tuesday.

"Norway, which is smaller than Alberta in almost every conceivable way, and they have a sovereign wealth fund that is closing in on $1 trillion, where we have squandered more money than they have," Lander explained.


Others want the money spent on government programs. Mike Fuller, who was walking near the legislature Tuesday, believes investments in counselling and legal aid would be better than surplus cheques.

"That can help people individually, sure. But having a system that can help people get out of their problems (would be better). We've had two years of terrible livelihood for everyone," Fuller told CTV News Edmonton.

James Thistle, who was running in the river valley Tuesday, is in favour of increasing health spending.

"Waiting times, communication just seems to be non-existent with the health-care system here in Alberta. I think that it could really use some work," he said.

Thistle also wants the government to ditch 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 be gate-keeping nature with financial fees," he said.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Joe Scarpelli Top Stories

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