I opened the CBC website one morning this week to be confronted with the headline “High oil prices a potential boon for beleaguered Alberta.” I mistook “boon” for “boom” and almost fell our of my chair. Oh no, not again, I thought.
It may seem churlish to groan over the possibility of an economic boom for your own province, but this is Alberta and we really have to stop depending on oil price rises to bail us out of our doldrums, which are of course as cyclic as the booms.
Well it was “boon” not “boom,” so I relaxed. And as the article points out, it is a boon indeed. An oil price that at one point last year actually went negative is now exceeding $70 US per barrel, well above the price projected in the last provincial budget.
According to the article, this means that every day the government receives up to $15-million more revenue than it planned for, an annual gift of around $6-billion. The provincial budget could be balanced years earlier without higher taxes. Growth in the provincial economy could be much higher than projected with employment fully recovered by the end of this year. Full recovery from Covid could be two years earlier than expected.
It won’t last of course. It never does. The author of the article, U of C associate professor Trevor Tombe, closes by saying, “So while we benefit from the current high prices today, we should think about the longer term and plan prudently for a future where finally—finally!—articles like this one are no longer worth reading.”
That is what wise Albertans have been saying for decades, through many booms and busts. Will a boon rather than a boom finally break the cycle?