The Prosperity Bonus, also nicknamed Ralph bucks, announced in September 2005, is the name given to a program designed to pay money back to residents of the Canadian province of Alberta as a result of a massive oil-fuelled provincial budget surplus.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein announced that each person in Alberta would receive $400 sometime in January 2006. This represented $1.4 billion (20%) of the $6.8 billion surplus. The money was not taxed by either the federal or provincial governments.
All Albertans who were residents of the province as of September 1 and filed a 2004 tax return with the Canada Revenue Agency received the bonus, except for prisoners, who did not qualify. Cheques for Albertans under 18 years of age were payable only to their primary caregiver (the mother in most cases), thus leaving parents to determine how their children's share was to be distributed or used. Homeless Albertans also qualified—the government pledged to work with inner-city agencies to ensure that the homeless receive their money. Other questions were unanswered. For example, it was unknown how spouses fleeing abusive relationships would receive their bonus if they were housed in a shelter.
Klein said more prosperity bonuses might follow if oil prices remained high but none were issued before he left office.
The program generated controversy both inside and outside Alberta. Although few Albertans turned down their cheques, some residents criticized what they saw as a pointless giveaway, and preferred to see the excess money put toward long-term benefits such as tax cuts or the abolition of health care premiums, which as of January 2009 have been eliminated.
Outside Alberta, some believed that the program would generate resentment from Canadians who saw cheques delivered to every Albertan.
Ralphbucks also made it into national media after a handful of non-Albertans came forward to admit they had received Ralphbucks cheques to which they were not entitled, prompting criticism from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
In a web poll by CTV Calgary, 5% of respondents said they would donate their prosperity bonus to charity.