ATB Branches May Privatize to Cover Alberta’s Growing Deficit: Move would net about $4 billion

Commentary, Frontier Centre, Media Appearances, Taxation

The Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB Financial) may be sold to private ownership to subsidize Alberta's growing deficit, netting an approximate $4 billion dollars in fiscal influx to cover government expenditure.

Though no decision has, as yet, been made, investment banker George Grosbee, at the Alberta Economic Summit Feb. 9, advocated the benefits of the company's withdrawal to the private sector.

A final decision, however, will be made when Redford's budget becomes public on March 7.

Publication of "The Frontier Centre for Public Policy Report" by Frank Atkins, an economist at the University of Calgary, summarily judged ATB to be unnecessary in today's economy and by being subject to special operational privileges as a government amenity, makes competition between other financial institutions unfair.

"There's been an ongoing friction between ATB and other financial institutions in Alberta. Towards the end of 2008, the government stepped in and aided ATB (via bailout). I think that's what prompted this latest flare up," said Atkins in interview on Alberta Primetime.

"Charter banks are governed by the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, credit unions operate under the Credit Union and Deposit Guarantee Corporation (but) the rules by which ATB operates are mandated by the Alberta government, and they differ from the other rules, giving an unfair competitive advantage," Atkins explained.

In response, ATB Prsident and CEO Dave Mowat said in a statement such questions "have come up before and I'm sure this isn't the last time we'll hear them."

Mowat said the issue of ATB's ownership is something for the government to deal with.

Our job is to do what we do, which is to keep building and maintaining a safe, effective, and profitable financial institution that serves Albertans well. And we're doing that.

"This year, our 5,000 associates, who know Alberta inside and out, will do record levels of business with more than 600,000 of their fellow Albertans and Alberta-based businesses.'"

The Sun will provide more coverage on this matter as it develops.