Small turnout for Heritage Fund discussion
Government to determine balance of spending, saving
Saturday, Oct 06, 2012 06:00 am
Opinion was divided amongst the small number of Albertans who turned out to discuss the future of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.
Only about 60 residents offered their two cents – either online or in-person – at the Oct. 3 public meeting, held in Edmonton. Viewers also tuned in on their television sets, although numbers were not available by press time.
“I think it would have been nice to have some more (people) in our live audience, but we really were pleased with the number of people who engaged online,” said Maureen Kubinec, Progressive Conservative MLA for Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and member of the fund’s standing committee.
She noted the turnout likely took a hit as a result of the coinciding United States’ presidential debate.
Some participants advocated for increased saving while others wanted more spending in key areas of the budget, like health care, education and infrastructure.
“The task of this committee is to find the balance between what a certain segment of the population thinks that we need to spend it on and (the other) segment of the population that thinks that we need to save,” Kubinec said at the forum.
She said the province’s booming population has economic benefits for Alberta but also puts more pressure on government to increase infrastructure funding – a thought shared by several participants in Wednesday’s discussion.
Individuals wishing to provide input on the future use of the fund can answer the three-question questionnaire at www.assembly.ab.ca or contact their MLA, Kubinec said.
This input will be considered by the all-party committee when creating the annual report, she said.
The committee consists of nine MLAs – six Progressive Conservatives and one each representing the Wildrose, Liberals and NDP.
At the end of the last fiscal year, the fair value of the Heritage Fund was $16.1 billion, up from $15.2 billion the previous year. As of March 31, 2012, the total income for the year was $798 million, which was $172 million less than predicted in the provincial budget.
The first quarter of the 2012-13 fiscal year, ending June 30, showed a decrease in the fund’s fair value to $15.9 billion, largely the result of poor market performance, according to the quarterly report.
The fund began in 1976 under then-premier Peter Lougheed, with the goal of saving a portion of the province’s non-renewable resources revenue for future generations.
Since its inception, $33.4 billion has been allocated to areas like health care, education and infrastructure.
Investment began at a rate of 30 per cent of natural resources revenue, which was cut in half in 1984. Three years later, transfers of natural resource revenue were stopped entirely.