World Politics

Premier Smith says restraint needed in Alberta budget 2024, vows to build Heritage Fund

Alberta energy grid woes renew concerns over climate change and infrastructure - National

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith promised not to cut spending this year in a pre-budget speech on Wednesday but said the province still needs to show more restraint than previously expected.

In a pre-budget, eight-minute paid prime time televised speech, Smith said lower resource revenues and the volatile price of oil and gas have prompted the government to think of a long-term strategic financial plan to have a “stable, balanced budget.”

In short, Smith said the province must, in the long-term, get off the rollercoaster ride that is relying on oil and gas prices.

Those challenges are caused by the province’s “unsustainable” dependence on a non-renewable resource, according to Smith, and Alberta can no longer rely on billions of dollars in resource revenues to balance the budget.

The speech comes before the United Conservative government unveiled its budget for 2024, which is scheduled for Feb. 28. The province previously forecast a surplus of $5.5 billion in 2023-24 during its mid-year fiscal update.

Story continues below advertisement

“Thankfully, we had a good year and we’ll collect enough resource revenues to cover that $16 billion, with a few billion leftover to pay towards our provincial debt and savings for the future,” Smith said during Wednesday’s address.

“That said, we simply cannot continue to rely on $16 billion or more in resource revenues to balance our budget year in and out.”

Get the latest National news.

Sent to your email, every day.

“That is a recipe for massive debt and cuts to health and education when the price of oil takes a dip for a year or two or more.”

Smith also said the United Conservative government will not increase sales taxes but will instead renew investments into Alberta’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund, which was established in 1976 to collect a portion of the province’s non-renewable revenues for “future generations.”

According to the Alberta government, the initial investment of $2.2 billion has grown to $21.2 billion as of March 31, 2023.

Smith said previous governments did not re-invest in the fund for various reasons, losing between $12 billion to $25 billion per year in revenue.

Smith said the United Conservative government plans to reinvest $3 billion of surplus and investment income back into the Heritage Fund, increasing its value to $25 billion and putting the province “back on track.”

The goal is to have…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at : Politics…