Increases for Alberta Parks and the Film and Television Tax Credit (FTTC) are among the many highlights in the Alberta budget for Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin.
Rosin highlighted the increase in the Alberta Parks budget, particularly because of the scrutiny it received after the use of a Kananaskis Conservation Pass became mandatory in June 2021 for all vehicles parked in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Provincial park and public land sites. The government said the funds generated would be used for conservation purposes.
She says there is an eight per cent increase in Parks' conservation budget for 2023-24, amounting to $500,000. Most, if not all of it, is for K-Country.
"So I just really wanna highlight that since we've introduced this path, we've been very conscious to make sure that that path is being an increased investment directly into our provincial parks and more specifically into parks that cannot ask is that see such high visitation. We want to make sure that every visitor has a great visitor experience, that they are able to conserve, and have a sustainable experience, whether that's with wildlife, or with the trails that they are using."
The overall Alberta Parks operations budget increased by 10 per cent and there was a 22 per cent increase in the park's visitor experience budget.
The province announced an additional $100 million in the film tax credit over a three-year period.
She says the UCP has been successful in replacing an awkward grant system that was turning away production companies into a more accessible pool of funds.
"It's scalable as big as you want, it's accessible anytime you want. As long as you film and produce in Alberta, you can access the grant and we've seen tremendous success from that program. Most notable, is The Last of Us, which is not only the largest production ever filmed in Canadian history, but it's the largest production ever filmed in HBO franchise in studio history, which is such a testament to the importance of programs like the tax credit that is intentional and deliberate in an intent to grow and diversify our economy."
She points to other tax credit programs that are reaping similar success for the province.
"We've also instituted a petrochemical incentive program. We have introduced a tier program to invest in green technologies and emissions-reducing projects. We have seen investments in lithium and other rare earth minerals our we're the fastest-growing tech sector in all of North America right now. So we're seeing tremendous economic growth and diversification rolling across every sector of Alberta's economy, and that is a huge contributor to this budget."
"There is nearly a $3 billion increase in the corporate activity in Alberta, and that's not oil and gas revenue, it's in corporate tax revenue collected."
She believes it's a testament to how lowering taxes can have a positive economic benefit, and attract more businesses.
Rosin, who is parliamentary secretary for tourism. says there have been increases in tourism investments by the province across the board, but none so notably as that into Travel Alberta. It was tripled in last year's budget and has been increased further in this budget to $72 million.
"What's notable about that increase is it has been accompanied by a mandated increase in the role of Travel Alberta as an agency. So whereas before Travel Alberta was just a marketing organization--they invested dollars into marketing and promotions and attracting visitors to Alberta--we've expanded their mandate to include destination development. Now, Travel Alberta is involved in partnering with budding entrepreneurs and experiences to help develop destinations and develop new experiences."
Rosin points to how four years ago, Alberta had a double-digit deficit of nearly $100 billion and now has been able to present two back-to-back balanced budgets and anticipates a $2.4 billion surplus in the 2023-24 budget.
"This is on top of being able to invest record amounts in healthcare, record amounts in education, public safety, mental health, transportation, road building, highway building. tourism, conservation, and even made the largest debt repayment in history through this budget and a $2 billion investment in the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, above and beyond our ordinary annual commitment," says Rosin.
"This budget just really reinforces the importance of fiscal responsibility and taking care of our economy, focusing on growth, diversification, supporting our oil and gas industry, while also prioritizing low taxes and pro-business policies because this budget, as much as we have reduced spending some years and kept debt to GDP low and reined in, some of our spending trajectory and spending habits that have gotten this budget to a place where we are able to invest more in all of the things that I listed."