Oil prices, tax income keep Alberta first-quarter revenue in line with last year

EDMONTON — A first-quarter fiscal update from the Alberta government is reporting consistent revenues compared with the same period last year.

The province says it brought in $13.4 billion from April to June — almost identical to the number in 2018.

Resource revenue was $164 million higher, mainly from a narrower oil price differential. Income tax revenue was also up $166 million due to growth in household income and corporate profits.

The deficit was $835 million — $365 lower than last year.

But Finance Minister Travis Toews said he’s concerned overall, since operating expenses grew $270 million and debt-servicing costs increased $93 million.

“These numbers do not paint a rosy picture,” Toews told a news conference Tuesday.

“Our year-over-year revenue has remained flat, but we’re burdened with cost pressures and compounding debt left by previous governments.”

Toews said the province’s overall debt has grown to almost $63 billion. He said most of that was accumulated in the last four years under the NDP government.

“We have flat revenues. We have increasing expenses, all on a trajectory that the previous government put us on that would reach $100 billion in debt in the very, not too distant future.”

He said Alberta needs to find ways to “exercise restraint” and his goal is to balance the budget each year, then work to erase the debt.

Premier Jason Kenney has said he won’t release his United Conservative government’s first budget until the fall.

A panel, headed by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon, was to complete a report about Alberta’s finances earlier this month. The province has said it plans to release the report in early September.

Kenney has said he expects the report will show the province’s economy is spiralling.

The Opposition NDP has said the report is likely to give Kenney cover if he introduces wage and job cuts to public-sector workers.

The Canadian Press