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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stelmach Wants More Royalty Review Input and Analysis

The Government of Alberta just issued a news release indicating that “While the formal consultation is over, we have not stopped listening. We want to make sure that people how have comments send them to the right place so we can consider this input as part of the review process.”

Nothing wrong with that per se and this initiative may be an obvious admission by the Alberta government that the old style of public consultation is not as effective as it should be at getting authentic citizen input. So citizens of Alberta here is your contact channels for your further input into the Royalty Review Report findings and process...www.alberta.ca and 427-0265. Get at ti and have your comments and concerns over the Royalty Review Report known to the powers that be. And you don’t even have to register as a Lobbyist to do this.

If you do not engage and the powers that be may very well make these decisions behind closed doors (again). If citizens of Alberta value accountability from their government to be reality not rhetoric they better start making those expectations known…loudly and clearly.

It looks like the energy industry gets their very own separate channel of continuing input and communications through the very capable Deputy Premier. He is said to “be the lead minister liaising with the energy industry.” This was the same approach used with the Mayor of Calgary and we saw how the municipal funding formulas were biased against Edmonton at the end of the day.

I am very wary about this approach. I expect everything that the industry says and presents to the government in this further consultation process will be fully disclosed by the government as the original inputs were done in public. This ahs to be part and parcel of a new spirit of an open, accountable and transparent government. I don't understand why doesn’t the government use the new all-party Standing Committee on Resources and Environment and have Industry make their cases there – in public and televised? The next scheduled meeting is October 2 so it is timely.

The Royalty Review Reports has some good advice in this regard too. At page 18 of the Executive Summary the Panel says:

The government of Alberta must implement means to gather and assess the workings of all aspects of revenue policy and collection associate with energy resources in the province. This must be done on behalf of the citizens of Alberta, and its findings must be made public and have the highest degree of credibility. It must not be a confidential exercise internal to the government.”

Here is the strangest development of all. The Royalty Review Panel used Department of Energy data, senior staff and their advisers in determining what was going on with the industry-government relationships on resource revenues. The Department of Energy was chastised in the Royalty Review Report. The news release says the Minister of Energy is to “lead a technical analysis of the report.”
None of this fiasco is the current Minister’s fault but why on earth do they need a technical analysis of the report findings when it was the DOE data that was used with assistance of departmental staff and advisers who helped the Panel do the review in the first place? Surely they would not let any inaccuracies of a “technical” nature be included in the final document! What is this all about? If industry has a rebuttal on the figures and analysis – let them put it forward. Let’s not have another Melchin kind of faux Royalty Review when we were told “Don’t Worry – Be Happy – Your government has it all under control.”

The mandate of the Royalty Review did not allow for infrastructure, growth pressures and environmental issues to be considered in the public consultation. Too bad but understandable! Since the government has “…not stopped listening” Albertans ought to feel free to use this invitation to have input into the government at “the right places” so it can consider this input as well.

If industry gets a second kick at this – so should citizens. Wake up Alberta and get engaged. The opening sentence of the new release quotes Premier Stelmach: “The decision on the royalty report will affect Alberta and our energy sector for decades to come.” He can say that again - but the final decision his government will make will affect all Albertans in all walks of life and future generations too.