- A year ago, the idea of a balanced budget would have been impossible, notes Graham Thomson.
- Thursday’s budget good news won’t be sufficient on its own to turn the heads of Premier Jason Kenney’s most passionate detractors.
- Still, they will allow him to deal a narrative that Alberta is turning a corner with nation-leading financial healing, among other things, reports Graham Thomson.
It appears working in so many ways that the official title of Alberta’s new regional budget is “Moving Forward.”
This is a budget concentrated on a brilliant smooth road ahead, not the potholed recession-ridden dirt path we rattled along the previous two years.
For the Alberta government, this is a post-pandemic funding. For Premier Jason Kenney, it is a pre-leadership-vote budget. For The United Conservative Party, it’s pre-pre-election funding.
This is not a pre-election budget, by the way, because the following election is planned for May 29, 2023, and by rule, the government is needed to get in a budget annually by the end of February.
So, there will be an exact pre-election budget a year from now – and at that time, we’ll see only how well this year’s budget predicts pan out.
Arguably, the most extensive forecast in the budget is an excess of $500 million. That’s a tremendous quantity of cash if you were to find it under your mattress, but for a government with a $63-billion budget, it’s a fall in the bucket.
But it is a very effective droplet, symbolically. No Alberta government has published a budget excess since 2014. Even the idea of a balanced budget a year ago would have been unimaginable as a COVID-fueled slump seized the region.
A year back, Alberta thought its resource earnings wouldn’t even crown $3 billion. Heck, oil costs had fallen so low that the government hoped to make more cash from cash-strapped university and college students paying tuition than it would earn from the oilsands.