Norway’s oil fund approaching C$2 trillion


In 1996, Norway began depositing oil revenue into a national wealth fund so that current and future generations would benefit from the nation’s oil wealth. Bolstered by oil taxes and profitable investments in more than 9,000 companies outside Norway, the fund is today valued at C$1.84 trillion. (Trillion is not a misprint.)

The fund has grown about 120 per cent since 2015.

In contrast, the most recent quarterly report shows Alberta’s Heritage Savings Trust Fund holds investments worth $18.55 billion, up about 1 per cent from 2015.

Writing the valuable Petro-Wealth series for The Tyee, Mitchell Anderson explained that Canadians allowed domestic and foreign-owned oil companies to keep a large share of oil revenues, while Norway decided most of the value of publicly owned resources belonged to the public

…Norway as a matter of policy has collected between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the resource wealth generated from their oil industry through corporate taxes twice as high as Canada, and a special tax on oil profits. In Alberta, royalties collected on all oil sands production in 2010 were 10 per cent of industry revenues.

Oil Wealth: Should Norway Be the Canadian Way?

British Columbia doesn’t even follow the Albertan model. Despite huge expansion of fossil fuel production, BC has set aside precisely zero dollars for future generations to share in the value of its non-renewable resources.


A decade ago, CCPA published a report by Bruce Campbell that compared management of petroleum wealth in Norway, Canada and Alberta. It maintained that foreign and domestic petroleum interests were appropriating a disproportionate share of the petro-wealth in Canada. Some of Campell’s comments are outdated but he accurately notes the fundamental difference in resource management in Norway and Canada:

Based on the view that multinational oil companies needed to be controlled, the Norwegian state took on the central role as both regulator and producer. It brought in active industrial policies to create upstream and downstream industries related to petroleum. There was also consensus that its petroleum wealth should be appropriated by the state and distributed equitably within Norwegian society...

For the most part, Alberta governments favoured a laissez faire approach, with subsidies and tax/royalty breaks to encourage rapid petroleum exploitation, and an open-door policy to the oil multinationals. For a brief period, the government of Peter Lougheed adopted a more active approach: creation of a mixed petroleum enterprise with government and private sector equity participation, policies to develop upstream and downstream industries, and the creation of the Alberta Heritage Savings Fund to save a portion of its petro-revenues. These policies, however, were abandoned by subsequent Alberta governments...

In Norway, the state has appropriated the vast majority — approximately 85% — of the net revenues from petroleum. In Canada and Alberta, however, the private sector oil and gas companies (domestic and foreign) have appropriated the bulk of the petro-wealth. The Alberta government has taken a smaller share of petro revenues than most other petro-states. And the government of Canada, since the mid-1980s, has taken a very small share in the form of general corporate income tax revenues

Categories: Norway, oil and gas

9 replies »

  1. The lion’s share of Western Canada’s “petro-wealth”has been dispersed through transfer payments to Quebec and the Maritimes.


    • Fact 1: Provincial governments have exclusive access to natural resource royalties and other related revenues. Equalization is entirely funded out of federal government revenues.

      Fact 2: People in the west send more money to the federal government than other Canadians, but not because federal taxes are levied differently. Higher salaries and higher spending by consumers result in more federal income and sales taxes flowing to Ottawa. Westerners contribute a little more to federal revenue, and that money pays for many things, including equalization.


  2. And to think that Norway’s population is the same as BC. When it comes down to it, we, in Canada, are a stupid people. I wonder if any of our wonderful people in the press would have the balls to ask any of our recent past and present politicians about Norway’s oil fund? As a footnote; I read years ago that the Kingdom of Norway has no debt.


  3. In 1986, Alberta NDP finance critic Alex McEachern pointed out that the so called Heritage Trust Fund was then underfunded; based on it’s funding mandate at that time.

    The fund at that time was valued at around $16 billion.

    This is a prime example of conservative values and priority. It’s also a prime example of how conservative governments manage peoples wealth-out the door.


  4. One could say those “socialists” in Norway are far better at money managment for the benefit of their country than “capitalist” in other parts of the world, including Canada.

    Norway was also the country which sent every new born home with a “baby box”
    Result, lower infant mortality rate.

    Our politicians tend to think in terms of the next election. Just not long term thinkers


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