Government Stabilized Funding for Key Public Services in 2015-16, Despite Steep Drop in Oil Prices

With the strongest balance sheet in the country, the Alberta government maintained nearly $50 billion in provincially owned net assets, despite the continued economic downturn and declining revenue due to the volatile price of oil.

The newly released annual report shows government finished the fiscal year with a $6.4-billion deficit – $324 million more than forecast in Budget 2015 in October. The difference is directly due to a $1.3-billion decline in revenue. Despite the decrease in revenues, actual expenses were $1 billion lower than expected in budget, while much-needed services and programs – including healthcare and education – were stabilized throughout the province.

“During these challenging economic times, our government chose to maintain the vital public services Albertans want and deserve. Rather than firing more people and making reckless cuts, our province is now able to finish the 2015-16 year positioned to weather the current economic realities and future challenges, as we continue to diversify the economy and develop new markets for our energy resources.”

Joe Ceci, President of Treasury Board, Minister of Finance

Depressed oil prices continued to affect Alberta’s economic outlook. The province’s economy contracted an estimated 3.7 per cent in 2015. Energy companies significantly decreased investment this past year. Corporate profits decreased and employment, wages and household incomes were all negatively influenced across the province. Most non-energy sectors were also affected.

Total revenue in 2015-16 was $42.5 billion, a $7-billion drop from 2014-15. This was due in large part to the sharp decline in non-renewable resource revenue, from about $8.9 billion in 2014-15 to $2.8 billion in 2015-16. The WTI price fell from a high of $105 US per barrel in June 2014 to the mid-$40s in 2015, with an average price of $35 over the last four months of fiscal 2015-16.

Total tax revenue also declined. The government collected $20.7 billion in taxes, which is a $716-million decrease from 2014-15 and $1.4 billion less than the Budget 2015 estimate.

Despite the economic downturn, the Government of Alberta continues to have net assets totalling $48.5 billion, one of the strongest balance sheets in the country.

Ministry annual reports are also posted online.

Annual report highlights

  • Total revenue: $42.5 billion (decrease of $7 billion from 2014-15, $1.3 billion lower than budget)
  • Non-renewable resource revenue: $2.8 billion ($6.2 billion lower than 2014-15, but close to the Budget 2015 estimate)
  • WTI: averaged US$45 per barrel (about $5 below the budget estimate and $35 lower than 2014-15)
  • The US-Canadian dollar exchange rate averaged US¢76.5/Cdn$ in 2015-16 (1.5 cents lower than the Budget 2015 estimate)
  • Total expense: $48.9 billion ($574 million higher than 2014-15, but $966 million lower than budget)
  • Contingency Account: $3.6 billion
  • General debt servicing costs: $330 million (net increase of $4 million from budget)
  • Capital Plan debt servicing costs: $446 million (an increase of $94 million from 2014-15, due to more direct debt, but $6 million less than budget, due mainly to the timing of borrowing)
  • Public-sector pension liabilities: $10.6 billion (decrease of $630 million, due to decreases in inflation rate and salary assumptions, and market returns on investments)
  • Heritage Fund: $15.2-billion book value, an increase of
    $209 million from March 31, 2015

Economic highlights

  • Employment grew 1.2 per cent overall during the 2015 calendar year, due to momentum from 2014; however, the unemployment rate rose throughout the year, reaching seven per cent in December 2015
  • Net migration slowed from 80,300 in 2014 to 42,000 in 2015
  • Population growth was 1.8 per cent in 2015