Oily roller coaster: A look at Alberta's plunge into the budget red

EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP government is to table its second budget on Thursday as the economy experiences a significant shock from low energy prices. Here is a recent history of Alberta budgets:

2008-2009 (tabled April 22, 2008)

Slogan: The Right Plan for Today and Tomorrow

Premier: Ed Stelmach. Finance minister: Iris Evans

Total spending is up 10 per cent to a record $37 billion. Surplus of $1.6 billion. Health premiums, which have generated $1 billion annually, are eliminated to save families $1,056 annually. Alberta Employment Tax Credit increases 10 per cent to save a middle-income family with two kids $316 a year. There’s money to hire 300 more police officers and create 14,000 child-care spaces. Good times don’t last as the world economy takes a beating. By the third-quarter update, the province is on track for a $1-billion deficit — the first red ink in 15 years.

2009-2010 (tabled April 7, 2009)

Slogan: Building On Our Strength

Premier: Ed Stelmach; Finance minister: Iris Evans

Budget forecasts a $4.7-billion deficit, the largest in Alberta history. Program spending is up 3.7 per cent, but resource revenue projections are cut in half. There are tax increases for alcohol and tobacco, as well as hikes in education property taxes. Annual coverage of $200 for chiropractic services is eliminated.

2010-2011 (tabled Feb. 9, 2010)

Slogan: Striking the Right Balance

Premier: Ed Stelmach; Finance minister: Ted Morton

The deficit again is forecast to reach $4.7 billion. Spending on health is up 5.6 per cent. Spending on education is up 4.6 per cent. There is a plan to spend $20 billion over three years on schools, roads and hospitals. The government holds the line on taxes.

2011-2012 (tabled Feb. 24, 2011)

Slogan: Building a Better Alberta

Premier: Ed Stelmach; Finance minister: Lloyd Snelgrove

There is turmoil in the weeks leading up to the budget. Stelmach announces his intention to step down. There are reports his hand was forced by fiscal hardliners in his Tory party, including Finance Minister Ted Morton, who are unhappy with the string of deficits. Morton promptly resigns to run as Stelmach’s replacement. Newly named Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove brings down a budget with a deficit of $3.4 billion. Spending is predicted to be $33.9 billion, up 2.2 per cent. Fees go up for car registration, incorporating a business, searching a land title and reserving a camping spot.

2012-2013 (tabled Feb. 9 2012)

Slogan: Investing in People

Premier: Alison Redford; Finance minister: Ron Liepert

Redford’s first budget is tabled right before a provincial election. It predicts an $886-million deficit, a balanced budget the following year and a $5.2-billion surplus in 2014-15. There are no new taxes, tax increases or cuts to the public service. Social assistance payments increase by an average of five per cent. There’s money for 90 new RCMP officers and 55 new sheriffs. After the Tories are re-elected, talk turns to tough times ahead. Redford coins the term “bitumen bubble” to refer to a glut of oil in the U.S. that is driving down the price of oilsands crude. By the third-quarter update, Alberta is forecasting a deficit of between $3.5 billion and $4 billion.

2013-2014 (tabled March 7, 2013)

Slogan: Responsible Change

Premier: Alison Redford; Finance minister: Doug Horner

The budget comes at a time when the province is feeling the squeeze from falling oil revenues and a growing population. It holds the line on day-to-day spending but borrows $4.3 billion to build roads, hospitals and schools. Even though the government is not increasing its overall spending on operations, it anticipates a $2-billion deficit on revenues of $38.6 billion. The shortfall, coupled with borrowing, means $6.3 billion in red ink. Horner says the $4.3 billion should not be seen as part of the deficit, because new infrastructure the money is paying for is an asset. There are no new or increased taxes, but no extra money for doctors, teachers, nurses or other government workers in contract talks.

2014-2015 (tabled March 6, 2014)

Slogan: The Building Alberta Plan

Premier: Alison Redford; Finance minister: Doug Horner

Alberta is back in the black on day-to-day spending with a $1.1- billion surplus, but the good times are being underwritten with billions of dollars in debt to pay for roads, schools and hospitals for tens of thousands of newcomers arriving each year. There are no new taxes and no tax increases. There is money for 40 more Mounties, 50 news schools and 2,000 new spaces for post-secondary students. And there is cash to complete twinning of the overburdened and dangerous highway to the oilsands hub of Fort McMurray.

2015-2016 (tabled March 26, 2015, but never passed)

Slogan: Putting Things Right

Premier: Jim Prentice; Finance minister: Robin Campbell

Plunging oil prices punch a multimillion-dollar hole in the government’s revenue. Prentice pledges to get the government off the roller-coaster of energy revenues. The plan calls for Albertans to pay more to get married, go camping, have a drink and fill up at the pumps. It retools tax rates so that the wealthy pay more. It also brings in a health-care levy. Even with all the changes, the budget forecasts the largest deficit in Alberta’s history at $5 billion. Prentice calls an election before the budget is passed and the Tories are swept from power by the NDP.

2015-2016 (tabled Oct. 27, 2015)

Slogan: Supporting Jobs, Supporting Families

Premier: Rachel Notley; Finance Minister: Joe Ceci

Low oil prices continue to suck billions of dollars in revenue out of Alberta’s pocketbook and the government faces a deficit of $6.1 billion. But the NDP’s first budget forges ahead with plans to build schools and hospitals, hire more teachers and nurses and bring in promised job-creation programs. There’s money earmarked to reduce school fees, start a school nutrition program and deliver a new child benefit for low-income families. There’s also cash to provide employers with job-creation grants over the next two years and to improve access to capital for small- and medium-sized businesses. Much of the spending is underwritten by debt, which is pegged to reach $36.6 billion by 2018. The province plans to start borrowing money next year to pay for day-to-day programs — something that hasn’t been done in 20 years.