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Alberta has turned the financial corner

Posted on July 11, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

It seems Alberta has turned the financial corner.

Alberta, and Canada in general, did not escape unscathed from the global economic slowdown.

Our country, and this province, did avoid the type of catastrophes suffered by some nations across the globe, and in general, we fared considerably better than even our neighbours to the south. That said, Alberta is only now set to post a surplus budget, following the meltdown of 2008, as last Monday’s financial figures released by the government indicate a $755-million surplus for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

For the first time since 2006-2007, Alberta is in the black ? depending on who you believe.

As the current financial year concluded on March 31, Alberta had raked in $45 billion in revenue. To be certain, that is a large positive. The figure was 17 per cent more than expected, as energy and tax revenues boosted our province’s fortunes.

Continuing the sunny outlook, Alberta’s contingency fund, now at $4.7 billion, is expected to climb to $6 billion, while the Heritage Savings Trust Find sits at $17.5 billion, as returns of 16 per cent were realized this year.

On the other side of the ledger, however, spending also came in higher than expected ? about 10 per cent more than the budget projected, at $42 billion. It seems no matter who is in charge as the province’s top elected official, that has been a fact of life Albertans have had to deal with for quite some time.

To be fair, unforseen circumstances, such as the floods of June 2013, added $1.2 billion to the budget but other costs, such as money spent to keep up with demands in health and social services, continue to grow to unsustainable proportions.

Those day-to-day spending issues pale in comparison to the debt being racked up in Alberta, which puts our relatively small surplus this year in perspective. By 2017, estimates have Alberta on track to borrow more than $21 billion. Even when Alberta was posting solid surplus numbers every year, the staggering infrastructure deficit, created in part during the Ralph Klein cost-cutting era, reared its ugly head. Opposition critics have stated when taking into account that debt, Alberta’s true deficit this year rings in at $2.1 billion.

Certainly, the Wildrose and Conservatives have very different ways of presenting the same information, and Albertans need to be aware of that. But however the numbers are cooked, Alberta is on the road to financial recovery.

Infrastructure issues are no doubt on the minds of many, as municipalities across the province continue to grapple with serious problems, but going forward, it is hoped Alberta has turned the corner, as the economic difficulties which ground many economies to a halt did not do the same to Alberta.

– Lethbridge Herald

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