Alberta's UCP government tabled Budget 2023 Tuesday afternoon, announcing nearly $70 billion in new spending and a surplus of $2.4 billion.
According to Budget 2023, the forecasted surplus for 2022/23 fell from $12.3 billion to $10.4 billion owing to declining royalty revenues, lost revenue from the carbon tax holiday, and extra spending to provide Albertans with inflation relief this year.
However, taxpayer-supported debt is expected to fall $78.3 billion by the end of 2023/24 — $17.3 billion lower than estimated last year.
Finance Minister Travis Toews said Tuesday that previous budgets “did the heavy lifting,” allowing the government to prioritize healthcare, address affordability and public safety, and boost the economy this time.
“Now that gives us the ability to move to spend up, prioritize and fund key priorities of Albertans, and right now we are facing an affordability challenge that's been unprecedented in recent time,” said Toews.
The government introduced $66.8 billion in new spending Tuesday afternoon, with $1.5 billion allocated for Alberta's disaster contingency fund.
The UCP also outlined a plan to limit annual spending increases to population growth and inflation while creating requirements for running a deficit and dictating how to set aside surplus cash.
Government legislation for the spring will request 50% of a surplus go to repaying debt maturing that year, with the remainder going to a new $1.4 billion “Alberta Fund.” The “Alberta Fund” is cash left at the end of the year that is listed in previous years as general revenue.
Toews said the fund's purpose establishes transparency and guardrails for government spending a budgetary surplus.
“It's anything but a slush fund. It was conceived to bring discipline to [using] surplus,” he said, with savings and debt repayment the top priorities.
The government could either pay its debt or allocate more money for the Heritage Savings Trust Fund with the extra cash. It could also go towards “one-time initiatives,” like affordability payments or capital projects.
The finance minister maintained he would announce new spending intended for between now and the upcoming election in the appropriations bill and fiscal plan later Tuesday.