From natural gas rebates to smokeless tobacco, here's how the Alberta budget might impact you
It will raise costs for students, campers, and likely anyone booking an AirBnB
It was one of the many questions looming prior to the release of Thursday's budget — given Alberta's startling reversal in financial fortunes (largely owing to spiking oil prices) — how will this affect the pocketbook of the average Albertan?
We now have some answers.
The United Conservative Party's fourth budget looks markedly different from the three prior, with a $511 million surplus targeted for 2022-23, compared to a previously forecasted deficit of $3.2B for 2021-22.
But that projected return to surplus did not translate into direct relief programs for Albertans struggling with inflation and high costs of living.
There's a natural gas rebate available intended to help consumers deal with natural gas bills, but that comes with a big asterisk. More on that in a bit.
The budget does not address Alberta's skyrocketing electricity rates, which have forced some Albertans to make tough decisions. It will also raise costs for students, campers, and likely anyone booking an AirBnB.
This strategy appears to be by design.
Instead of direct relief programs, the government emphasizes the plan is to "position the province for economic growth" while taxing less — the hope being that the plan will raise wages and attract new jobs to Alberta.
Here's some of what's in Budget 2022 that could impact you in the year to come.
Natural gas rebate
CBC Calgary heard from dozens of Calgarians this week who said they were struggling with utility bills thanks to soaring electricity and natural gas prices.
High energy prices are great news for government coffers (and its new budget) but translate into higher heating bills for consumers.
The new budget suggests a solution.
Should regulated natural gas companies charge rates above $6.50 a gigajoule between October 2022 and March 2023, a rebate will become available to consumers using less than 2,500 gigajoules annually.
The government figures that would cover most homes, small apartment buildings, farms and small industrial and commercial operations.
The caveat? Natural gas prices haven't gone above $6.50 a gigajoule since 2008, and the government's own assumption pegs that number at $3.20 a gigajoule for 2022-23.
So a safety net is in place, but no relief from the sticker shock from current utility bills.
There isn't much new here.
Last year, the government increased camping fees between $1 and $3.
This year, park fees will rise to $10 for changing bookings from $5, but that's the only fee increase on the books.
Alberta continues its strategy to shift university funding away from provincial funding and more towards tuition.
The government expects that post-secondary tuition fees will total more than $1.6 billion, an increase of $149 million from 2021-22, largely due to increases in enrolment and fee rates.
Post-secondaries are now projected to cover 50 per cent of their operating expenses in 2021-22 before that rises to 55 per cent in 2024-25.
If you're an Alberta student, all of that means you can expect the price of your education will continue to rise for the foreseeable future — something that has attracted protests in recent years at Alberta universities.
There is, however, a slight increase in student aid and new grants for low-income students as part of this year's budget.
The government announced that it would de-index personal income taxes in the 2019 budget — referring to the amount you are able to exempt.
Due to inflation, that essentially works out to be a tax increase. The paused indexation continues in Budget 2022.
Finance Minister Travis Toews acknowledged Thursday that the government had committed to re-indexing personal income taxes once the province was past this "great economic fiscal challenge."
He said as the province has not yet achieved a balanced budget — just a projected balance — his expectation was that a decision around reindexing would be made for 2023 should economic projections and assumptions carry out throughout the year.
In the 2019 budget, the provincial government announced it would introduce tourism levies on short-term rentals like AirBnB, later introducing those levies in 2021.
Online marketplaces were given the option to voluntarily collect that levy on behalf of their Alberta hosts.
But to date, the government says, none of these companies have done so.
As a result, the province says it is introducing legislative amendments at some point in 2022 to require that these marketplaces collect that levy.
Public sector jobs
Here's an area where, unlike the losses absorbed in the past few years, some job increases are actually expected in the public sector.
Alberta Health Services is listed in the budget as gaining 850 jobs, while the Alberta Energy Regulator will add 78 positions.
The province expects to add 107 teachers to its roster, bringing the provincial estimated total to 36,672.
Tobacco tax reduction
Rounding things out, something to chew on.
Alberta will introduce a separate tax rate for smokeless tobacco products starting March 1, 2022.
Those products are currently taxed at a rate of 41.25 cents per gram, as part of a larger category that includes many tobacco products.
Like in Saskatchewan, Alberta's new tax rate for smokeless tobacco will be set at 27.5 cents per gram, aligning with the province's per cigarette tax rate.
The province expects this change will reduce revenue by $10 million in 2022-23.