Budget 2017-18 Annual Report

We’re here for a good time – Not a long time – So have a good time the sun can’t shine everyday ….. Trooper  and …. some NDP strategists

On Thursday, the NDP released the final accounting for fiscal year 2016-17.  Just in time for the long weekend. Long weekends are when government releases bad news… so that by Tuesday we will have forgotten about it.  The idea was to bury the deficit spending and ever-increasing debt numbers among the sea of Canada Day celebrations.

Well they need not have bothered!  We Albertans are already partly deaf to all this.  It is like going to a rock concert and your ears start reducing the sound to protect you.

Government’s news release pointed out that 2017 saw Alberta enter a recovery after the recession.  It pointed to growing jobs numbers (2.3 million Albertans are working) and a deficit that was $2.0 billion lower expected.  The message is: “No more recession but the tourniquet to stop the fiscal bleeding has only slowed the torrent of red ink.”

Here is a closer look at the numbers:

On the Revenue side:

  • Total revenue was $47.3 billion up $5 billion. HURRAH!
    • Resource revenue was up $1.2 billion. (Mostly from conventional oil and gas)
    • The carbon tax raised about $1.0 billion and another $250 million from industrial emissions levies.
    • Investment income was up by $1 billion dollars mostly thanks to the Heritage Saving Trust fund.
    • Government’s income from its businesses was up $900 million mostly from the sale of electricity contracts. This was cold comfort since there were big losses booked in previous years.
    • Other assorted taxes raised $250 million and another $150 million from fees and licenses.
    • Personal and corporate taxes were down by $300 million despite higher employment.
    • Transfers from the federal government were down by $300 million this year.

On the Expense side:

  • Total expenses were $55.3 billion adding $8.0 billion to the deficit. UGH!
    • Only Agriculture and Forestry spent less than the year before. But the department’s costs was higher than what was budgeted due to firefighting costs and agriculture disaster payments.
    • Education, Advanced Education, Children Services and Community and Social Services all came in over budget by a combined total of $313 million.
    • Healthcare came in under budget by $148 million. That is a year over year increase of 2.8% or $585 million more than the previous budget.
    • Capitalspending was $9.0 billion up by $2.4 billion from the year previous. Road construction and grants to municipalities combined for $1.7 billion of the increase and Health another $330 million.

But as noted above, we have become resigned to debt financing and we can’t really fathom how big those numbers are. Hard to really imagine isn’t it?  If you rolled 8 billion loonies into one of those cardboard tubes it would stretch from Edmonton all the way to Capetown South Africa.

The accumulated debt is $43.4 billion if you tried to roll up loonies for that about it would stretch around the equator twice.