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Strengthening economy, responsible decision-making highlight 2011-12

Mindful spending, increased resource revenues and better-than-expected investment income improve province's bottom line.

2011-12 Annual Report Highlights:

  • Revenue was $39.2 billion, $3.6 billion higher than budget mostly due to higher land lease sales, resource revenue and investment income.
  • Expense was $39.3 billion, nearly $300 million higher than budget due to disaster assistance.
  • The Sustainability Fund stood at $7.5 billion at March 31, 2012, $2.2 billion higher than the budget estimate.
  • The Heritage Savings Trust Fund’s fair value stood at $16.1 billion at March 31, 2012; the fund generated almost $800 million in investment income during the fiscal year.
  • Alberta brought the bottom line close to balanced with a $23 million deficit, $3.4 billion lower than estimated at budget.

Albertans benefited from more schools, increased access to health care and improved services for seniors and the vulnerable last year while maintaining a healthy bottom line through increased revenue and disciplined spending. 

“It’s important that Albertans see value in how the province puts their dollars to work,” said President of Treasury Board and Finance Minister Doug Horner. “Albertans have been very clear on their priorities - health, education and supporting the vulnerable. We’ve worked hard to meet expectations and we’ll stay focused on providing the programs, services and infrastructure to support them, while budgeting effectively.”

From providing 1,000 new continuing care spaces to delivering seven new and replaced schools, 2011-12 saw the government focus on the results and outcomes Albertans expect. Other highlights from the year include helping 26,000 lower-income families cover the costs of child care and repaving more than 1,200 kilometres of highway throughout the province. The provincial crime rate continues to decline, as does the homeless rate in the province’s major cities. And more Albertans are completing high school and obtaining a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree. 

Operating expenses were down from budget due to savings and lower capital grants. Total expenses were up about $300 million from budget, mainly due to more than $500 million for emergencies and disasters, including the Slave Lake and other wildfires, along with floods. 

Total revenue was up $3.6 billion from budget, mainly due to increased Crown lease sales and resource revenue, along with greater-than-expected investment income. These increases were partially offset by lower-than-expected income tax revenue.  

The improved fiscal situation meant that less money was drawn from the Sustainability Fund, Alberta’s short-term savings account. It contained $7.5 billion at year-end, $2.2 billion higher than originally forecast at budget.

“We are all very fortunate to be in Alberta,” said Horner. “Our economy is strong and our bottom line is healthy. People from across the world are choosing Alberta as the place they want to be. That said, we are not immune to the effects of global economic uncertainty. Fluctuating oil prices and exchange rates, along with general market volatility are a cause for concern - we must continue to keep an eye on these issues and will adjust our forecast if necessary at first quarter.”

Alberta’s economy continued to grow, leading the country with real GDP growth estimated at more than five per cent in 2011. Alberta’s population grew by nearly 60,000 people last year, a growth rate of 1.6 per cent, higher than the national average. There were also nearly 78,000 more Albertans working compared to the year before and on average Albertans earned the highest average weekly earnings in the country. Alberta workers are also the most productive - the province has the best level of labour productivity in Canada. 

Alberta continues to be the only province in Canada to be in a net financial asset position. The province’s net financial assets (total financial assets less liabilities) are about $27 billion, or $7,000 per Albertan.

Backgrounder

Fiscal Year Assumptions

 

Budget 2011

Actual for
2011-12

Change from Budget

Oil Price (WTI US$/bbl)

$89.40

$97.33

+ $7.93

Natural Gas Price (ARP - Cdn$/GJ)

$3.45

$2.98

- $0.47

Exchange Rate (US/Cdn)

98.38¢

$1.007

+ 2.32¢

Net (Debt) / Assets Provincial Comparisons - 2011-12

 

Net (Debt) /
Assets ($ billions)

$ Per Capita

% GDP

British Columbia

(35.5)

(7,729)

(16.4)

Alberta

26.7

7,036

9.3

Saskatchewan

(3.6)

(3,361)

(5.1)

Manitoba

(14.8)

(11,831)

(25.8)

Ontario

(237.5)

(17,694)

(37.1)

Quebec

(170.9)

(21,355)

(51.0)

New Brunswick

(10.1)

(13,364)

(33.0)

Nova Scotia

(13.3)

(14,043)

(35.2)

Prince Edward Island

(1.8)

(12,638)

(35.5)

Newfoundland

(7.8)

(15,195)

(25.7)

Sub-Total

(468.6)

(13,585)

(27.4)

       

Federal Government

(641.8)

(18,546)

(37.5)

       

TOTAL

(1,110.4)

(32,087)

(64.9)

 

Heritage Fund earns nearly $800 million in 2011-12

A diversified global investing approach led to the Heritage Savings Trust Fund’s strong investment performance last year. At March 31, 2012, the fair value of the fund’s assets was $16.1 billion. The fund posted an 8.2 per cent return, earning $798 million, of which almost 60 per cent stayed in the fund.

This means that $454 million will be retained in the fund for inflation-proofing. The other $344 million will be transferred to general revenues to support Albertans’ priorities like health care, education, supporting the vulnerable and keeping taxes low.

The 8.2 per cent return exceeded the fund’s overall benchmark of 5.6 per cent.

The Heritage Fund is invested in a balanced portfolio that includes public and private equities, bonds, mortgages, real estate, infrastructure and other assets. Robust returns from interest-bearing investments like bonds and mortgages, alternative investments like real estate, and global equities helped to offset lower-than-expected returns on the fund’s Canadian equity portfolio.

At March 31, 2012, 52.9 per cent of the portfolio’s assets were invested in equities, followed by 26.3 per cent in money market and fixed income securities, and 23.7 per cent in inflation-sensitive and alternative investments.

Since 1976, the Heritage Fund has contributed $34 billion to fund Albertans’ priorities. The fund is managed by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

The entire Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Annual Report can be viewed online at www.finance.alberta.ca.

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Media inquiries may be directed to:

Robyn Cochrane
Communications
Treasury Board and Finance
780-427-5364
robyn.cochrane@gov.ab.ca
https://twitter.com/AlbertaFinance

Kathleen Range
Press Secretary
Treasury Board and Finance
780-427-5357
kathleen.range@gov.ab.ca
https://twitter.com/kathleenrange

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.