Alberta posts $4.6B surplus for 2007-2008

The Alberta government ended the 2007-2008 fiscal year with a surplus of $4.6 billion, according to figures released Tuesday.

The Alberta government ended the 2007-2008 fiscal year with a surplus of $4.6 billion, according to figures released Tuesday.

The figure is about twice the size projected during the spring budget in 2007.

The extra revenue came as a result of higher oil and gas revenues, and an increase in income tax caused by the booming economy.

Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans announcing the province ended the fiscal year with a $4.6 billion surplus. ((CBC))

"Alberta continues to benefit from strong economic growth and high oil prices," said Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans.

"The government remains committed to taking advantage of this opportunity by increasing our savings and building and maintaining Alberta's infrastructure to address ongoing growth pressures."

The figures show revenues from oil and gas reached $11 billion, the third highest in Alberta history. With oil now trading at more than $130 US a barrel, government officials say energy revenues could continue to outpace predictions in the coming years.

But Evans said she is not counting on such a windfall.

"If we can believe that it's going to hit $200 …then I've certainly got the problem of a largesse of riches. But in Alberta because of the boom-bust nature of this economy, because of the pressures we've got today, where people are challenging Alberta, where they are failing to recognize the good things we are doing, then I think I wouldn't be as confident."

Evan' comments were in reference to U.S. interests that have been lobbying to ban oil and gas from Alberta's oilsands because of  the amount of greenhouse gas produced.

Not enough into savings: critics

"In Alberta we are reliant on luck," said Liberal finance critic Laurie Blakeman.

She said the province should be saving more of its windfall revenues as a hedge against tougher times, rather than spending every cent on new construction.

"They are whipping the horses of inflation and unparalleled growth. They are whipping those horses to a lather so there is a lack of balance and calm to this."

Scott Hennig, the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, agreed the government should save more.

"Convert one time lottery winnings into a steady stream of revenue. Every single smart lottery winner does it. They can either live off the money for a few years and go broke, or they can stick it into a money market fund and live off the money forever, on the interest."

The government is putting about one-third of the surplus into savings, and another third into an account to help fund future capital construction projects.

And $2.3 billion will cover a shortfall in the teachers pension fund, part of a deal struck by the government with teachers which will guarantee five years of labour peace.

The surplus is dwarfed by recent record surpluses of $8.7 billion in 2006, and $8.5 billion in 2007.

The government is projecting a much more modest surplus at the end of the 2008-2009 year — $1.6 billion.

With files from the Canadian Press