There are many reasons to be optimistic about Alberta’s economy. Forecasters are saying Alberta will lead the nation in economic growth this year and, just last month, I announced the government’s first year-end surplus in 7 years. Our population growth remains steady. Our labour market is resilient. Our economy is steadily becoming more diversified.
Yet, despite the positive outlook, I know many Albertans aren’t yet in a position to benefit from this renewed prosperity. The sharp rise in inflation continues to make life difficult for many. Prices are up everywhere so Albertans are paying more for essential goods and services. That’s why Alberta’s government has committed more than $2 billion dollars in relief.
In April, we stopped collecting the provincial fuel tax, saving Albertans 13 cents on every litre of gas and diesel at the pumps. Last month, I announced the extension of that program for at least another 3 months, giving Albertans extended relief on the roads.
We’re also helping Albertans with high utility bills. The Electricity Rebate Program is now in effect, providing almost $600 million in relief to Albertans through to the end of the year. And this fall, the Natural Gas Rebate Program will help Albertans facing high heating costs.
Other programs are helping families and communities deal with rising costs. Alberta’s new child care agreement with the federal government has already reduced the cost of childcare in the province. And in June, we reinstated the Fuel Price Contingency Program to help school authorities cover high fuel costs for buses. These actions, among others, are helping make Alberta more affordable.
In the meantime, Alberta’s government continues to explore ways to make life more affordable and keep money in your pockets. But, we must do so with caution.
Any new relief measures could have unintended economic consequences. We’ve seen what stimulus programs have done to ongoing supply-demand imbalances – government supports can actually contribute to inflation. We will continue to consider options, researching each one thoroughly, and listening carefully to the experts, but we need to ensure any short-term measures don’t cause long-term economic problems.
Albertans already pay the lowest overall taxes among provinces, with low personal income tax and no provincial sales tax, payroll tax or health premiums. Supported by a growing economy and an abundance of opportunities, this year, the province saw its highest first-quarter population growth since 2014. Simply put, the future of Alberta is bright.
There are still challenging times ahead, and high inflation won’t disappear overnight. With this government’s continued commitment to fiscal responsibility and broad range of supports, Alberta will emerge stronger.
Jason Nixon served as President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance from June 21, 2022 to October 24, 2022. He also served as Government House Leader.