Calgary

$400 rebate cheque coming in January

Albertans will start the new year with an extra $400 in their pockets, Finance Minister Shirley McClellan said Tuesday, promising resource rebate cheques will be in the mail by January.

Albertans will start the new year with an extra $400 in their pockets, Finance Minister Shirley McClellan said Tuesday, promising resource rebate cheques will be in the mail by January.

"Albertans work hard and contribute to the strength of the province," McClellan said in a news release. "Alberta has eliminated the accumulated debt, invested in priority programs and sustained the lowest overall burden in Canada.

"This is money Albertans can use for themselves, to spend or save as they see fit."

Anyone living in the province as of Sept. 1, 2005 – including children – will be eligible for a share of the province's projected surplus. Premier Ralph Klein has said the surplus, fueled by soaring oil and gas prices, could hit $8.8 billion this year.

McClellan, releasing details of the prosperity program Tuesday, said tax-free cheques will be sent directly to every Albertan over 18 who filed a tax return in 2004. Cheques for those under 18 – including any child born in the province in 2005 – will be sent to their primary caregiver, usually the mother.

Homeless Albertans are also eligible for the rebate, and McClellan says the province will work with shelters and agencies to get the money to those without fixed addresses.

Klein decided that with resource royalties filling the province's coffers, each Albertan should share in the wealth. In addition to the $1.4-billion resource rebate program, the surplus will also be spent on infrastructure and placed in various endowments.

But the move has been controversial, with many people arguing the province would be better off spending the surplus on its priorities. Polls show those in favour of the prosperity cheques and those against are split down the middle.

The province has suggested those who don't want the rebate cheque should donate the $400 to charity.

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