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Alberta projects $12.3B surplus for budget in latest fiscal update


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By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Alberta is revising down this year’s budget bottom line as it doles out inflation-fighting payouts but still expects to finish with a petro-powered $12.3-billion surplus.

“Our fiscal situation has improved substantially,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said Thursday as he released the mid-year update for the 2022-23 budget.

“Challenges are ahead, but we’re leaving no one behind.

“We’re able to provide significant help to Albertans and their families, to keep more money in their pockets for groceries, gas, utilities and other rising costs of day-to-day living.”

The plan is to put the bulk of the windfall into debt repayment, reducing the taxpayer-supported debt by $13.3 billion to a new total of just under $80 billion when the fiscal year ends on March 31.

The government has also set aside $2.8 billion over the next three years to cover a batch of inflation-fighting programs and payouts to shield Albertans — particularly families, seniors and the vulnerable — from higher costs due to inflation spikes.

Premier Danielle Smith announced the payouts and rebates this week while building on existing relief measures that began in the spring under former premier Jason Kenney.

Among the changes, the province has paused its 13 cents a litre tax on gasoline at the pumps and is rebating $50 a month on household electricity bills.

Smith’s United Conservative Party government is re-indexing personal income tax brackets and benefit payments to seniors and people with disabilities — the same programs it de-indexed three years ago.

Middle- and lower-income families with children under 18 will be getting $600 total per child over six months starting in January.

The same $600 benefit will go to middle-income seniors and those in need.

Alberta has a rebate program in place in case heating prices spike, but the trigger point is not expected to be reached at least through to the end of this year.

Opposition NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips said while the province is flush with cash, Smith’s government is failing to use it wisely.

Phillips noted the province is not committed to funding the overburdened health system at a rate to match population growth plus inflation. She said many deserving Albertans have been frozen out of the $600-per-person aid package.

On top of that, she said the province had to abandon a previous pledge to put $1.7 billion into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund to pay for the inflation-fighting package, although Toews said no final decisions have been made on that.

“This plan is poorly thought out, it is frantic, it misses a wide swath of Albertans, and it doesn’t come anywhere near undoing all the damage they (the government) have authored themselves,” said Phillips.

Non-renewable resources are expected to bring in $28.1 billion, with revenue from the oilsands alone making up 70 per cent of that windfall.

Total revenue is pegged at $76.9 billion and total spending at $64.6 billion.

Spending is up slightly to cover big-ticket items such as $174 million in a new pay deal for physicians.

Personal income taxes is to take in $13.3 billion and there will be $6.3 billion in corporate income taxes.

Total spending on COVID-19 and an economic recovery plan are estimated at $2 billion.

The long-term outlook looks bright. Real GDP growth is pegged at 4.8 per cent this year and Alberta is welcoming 22,000 more people — the biggest net migration among all provinces and the biggest influx to Alberta since 2014.

Inflationary pressures have receded but remain a concern, says the government’s outlook. Headline inflation — the raw figure that includes such volatile price swings as gasoline and food — is predicted to be 6.3 per cent this year.

“Volatility in the market is extreme, and that’s why we must continue to make smart, responsible budgetary choices,” Toews said.

It has been a vertiginous ride for Alberta’s resource-reliant economy. In February, as the global economy reawakened from a two-year COVID-19-induced hibernation, Toews tabled a budget forecasting a modest $511-million surplus after years of multibillion-dollar deficits.

But as global demand for oil shot up and Russia invaded Ukraine, putting more strain on energy supplies, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil price went through the roof, averaging more than US$100 a barrel for months.

In August, Alberta’s budget surplus was revised from $511 million to $13.2 billion before being revised yet again Thursday to $12.3 billion.

The West Texas price has softened somewhat and is expected to remain as such in the near future, but still hovers in the very healthy $80 a barrel range.

The government says the WTI needs to average out no lower than $81.50 a barrel the rest of the way in order to meet its budget targets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2022.

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Lafreniere scores in OT to lift Rangers over Flames 5-4

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By Allan Kreda in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — Alexis Lafreniere scored 1:37 into overtime and Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves as the New York Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 on Monday night.

Lafreniere led a 2-on-1 rush and then tracked down the rebound of Mika Zibanejad’s shot, beating netminder Jacob Markstrom for his seventh goal this season. That ended a frenzied game that was tied four times and featured several fights following big hits — two by Rangers captain Jacob Trouba.

“Getting the game-winning goal in OT is always fun,” the 21-year-old Lafreniere said. ”It was a great up-and-down game with two really good goalies. It was fun to play.”

Calgary’s Andrew Mangiapane and Michael Stone scored two minutes apart early in the third period to give the Flames a 4-3 lead, but Zibanejad scored his second goal of the game — his team-leading 24th — to tie it for the fourth time at 12:55.

Filip Chytil also scored twice for the Rangers, who improved to 9-2-3 in their last 14 games and are 17-4-3 since Dec. 5.

Halak has won six straight and seven of his last eight appearances.

Zibanejad put New York ahead 3-2 with 14 seconds left in the second but Mangiapane scored at 6:38 of the third to tie it. The play was reviewed to determine if Mangiapane kicked in the puck with his skate, but the goal stood.

“It wasn’t pretty at times. … It was a hard battle. We just kept going,” Zibanejad said. “It was a big two points and a great way to come back from the break.”

Zibanejad’s first goal came as he roofed the puck past Markstrom on the power play with assists to Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin. The assist was Panarin’s 300th point with the Rangers.

Chytil opened the scoring at 5:37 of the first, rifling a high shot past Markstrom. Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox assisted.

Calgary forward Blake Coleman tied it at 10:25 with his 11th goal.

There were several skirmishes in the first as both teams were playing for the first time since Jan. 27 following the All-Star break.

“It wasn’t a great hockey game, but it was an exciting game,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was different — a bunch of fights going on. … Maybe the break was too short.”

Trouba tussled with Calgary’s Chris Tanev after the defenseman leveled Flames forward Dillon Dube with an open-ice check.

Later in the first, several fights ensued after Rangers forward Sammy Blais drilled Flames forward Milan Lucic. New York rookie Will Cuylle fought Calgary’s MacKenzie Weegar, and Lucic was assessed an extra two minutes for roughing against Rangers forward Jake Leschyshyn.

“Exciting game. Fun game. I thought we were valiant to come back,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. “I thought we played really well. … There were three or four hits. They were clean, big hits.”

Chytil put the Rangers ahead 2-1 on a breakaway at 2:02 of the second. Fans at Madison Square Garden chanted the 23-year-old Czech forward’s name after his second goal.

“That’s cool, feels very good,” he said. “It motivates me to be better the next shift and show what I can do.”

Chytil has a career-best 18 goals and 31 points this season. He has six goals in his last four games and 14 points — 10 goals — in his last 12 games.

Calgary’s Tyler Toffoli tied it at 2 with his 19th goal on the power play at 16:45 of the second.

Trouba struck again with just under a minute left in the second, body-checking Nazem Kadri hard in the Rangers zone, then fighting Dube who rushed to his teammate’s defense. Dube received an extra two-minute penalty for instigating, and Zibanejad scored the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play.

NOTES: Zibanejad’s 83rd power-play goal for the Rangers moved him ahead of Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle into a tie with Vic Hadfield for sixth place on the franchise list. … Calgary scratched defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Connor Mackey, plus forward Brett Ritchie. … The Rangers scratched forwards Julien Gauthier and Vitali Kravtsov, plus defenseman Libor Hajek. … The teams meet again Feb. 18 in Calgary.


Flames: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Rangers: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.


AP NHL: and

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‘I am sorry’: Man convicted in stabbing of Calgary chef apologizes at sentencing

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A man convicted of killing a chef apologized Monday and expressed dismay that no one with the victim’s family was in court to to hear it.

Tommie Holloway was convicted of manslaughter while his accomplice, Anthony Dodgson, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Christophe Herblin.

Herblin was stabbed to death in a parking lot outside his soon-to-be opened Calgary café following a break-in in 2020.

Holloway, 33, told his sentencing hearing that he hoped his words would get through to Herblin’s wife, who wrote in a victim impact statement last December that the killing had left her broken and struggling “to make sense of this tragedy.”

“It got to me. Got me emotional,” said Holloway.

“I just wish they were here today so I could look at them eye-to-eye, apologize for my actions. I know no amount of words that I’m going to say is going to bring back their loved one, but I do want them to know that I am sorry.”

The Crown has recommended Holloway serve 12 years in prison. Defence lawyer Kim Ross said his client had no previous criminal record, has made efforts to turn his life around and should serve three to five years.

“I’m not standing here saying that imprisonment is not appropriate here. The issue is how long,” Ross told Court of King’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

“Mr. Holloway has clearly learned his lesson … and I submit with some degree of confidence that this court will never see Mr. Holloway back here again.”

Herblin was a longtime executive sous chef at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, and his new restaurant was weeks away from opening.

Court heard Dodgson and Holloway broke into the restaurant with plans to get through a wall into an adjacent cannabis shop. They fled when a car drove by and returned later to continue their robbery attempt but became frustrated as Herblin had showed up.

Holloway smashed Herblin’s car windows in order to lure him into the parking lot. Dodgson attacked him and stabbed him nine times.

Herblin staggered to a nearby gas station for help and died shortly after police officers came to his aid.

Ross said Holloway had no knowledge of what was going to happen and immediately ran off after smashing out the car’s windows.

“Mr. Holloway at that point did not know what had happened. He did not know that Mr. Herblin was in the state that he was in and that he had gone to the Shell looking for help,” Ross said.

“He was leaving the scene of a possible break and enter. Certainly at the time of his leaving he did not know.”

Dodgson receives an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction. When the sentencing hearing began for both men in December, the Crown argued that Dodgson should not be eligible for parole for 15 to18 years. His lawyer asked for a range of 10 to 12 years.

The judge is scheduled to deliver his sentence for Holloway and Dodgson on Feb. 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said lawyers were recommending the time Holloway should serve before he is eligible for parole.

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