Rising crude prices are shoring up Alberta’s finances even as the oil-rich Canadian province grapples with the country’s worst resurgence of the pandemic, its finance minister said.

Alberta, which has almost half of Canada’s current COVID-19 cases, has been able to set up provisions to cope with mounting health costs. Rising oil-royalties revenue is helping offset the impact of the pandemic on the economy, Finance Minister Travis Toews said during the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference. 

“We’ve seen a massive improvement, really massive improvement on the revenue side,” Toews said. “We have set aside some contingency funds for dealing with the pandemic, as well as for dealing with the economic challenge that the pandemic has created.”

The western province’s economy has been battered in recent years by repeated oil crashes, failure to get export pipeline projects off the ground because of environmental opposition and growing investor reluctance to back its oil sands industry. Now, Alberta is grappling with more than 21,000 active coronavirus cases, about 45 per cent of Canada’s total. 

Oil’s roughly 53 per cent jump this year is helping ease the blow for public coffers. That means Toews will be able to maintain his improved outlook for the province’s deficit and economic rebound. 

The province -- which was downgraded from A+ to A this year by S&P Global Ratings -- is projecting a deficit of $7.5 billion (US$5.9 billion) for the fiscal year that ends next March.