Saturday, October 20, 2007

Here is Dr. Dwarkin's Apology Letter to Fellow Royalty Review Panel Members

Thanks to Graham Thomson’s Blog in the Edmonton Journal Albertans have access to the letter of apology from Dr. Dwarkin written to some fellow “Our Fair Share” Panel members. This is because of some of the content and tone of a review she apparently “co-authored” and released by her employer Ross Smith Energy Group (RSEG) out of Calgary.

The Royalty Review panelists are a group of quality people of great character with a great deal of individual and collective experience and expertise. The final report they released proves they have done an exemplary job in a critical and complex area. Since they released the document, they been ridiculed, insulted, called names and vilified as part of an overall well planned intimidation and misinformation strategy.

In the face of all that, some of them are continuing, on their own time and at their own expense, to speak up, clarify and very ably debunk the misinformation and fear mongering campaign that is being put forth by some powerful forces in the Alberta energy sector.

There is a lot at stake here and, as important as that is, it is not just the money and how it is to be allocated and controlled. There are lots of very powerful special interests and self-interests at play and from people who are very used to having their way with our government and it seems to have been happening mostly behind closed doors. The “Our Fair Share” Royalty

Review Report made those points very precisely and they fixed the blame for it too. Then they went to work on recommending how to change it.

The royalty review panelists are personally bearing the brunt of some pretty serious pressures from those powerful sources and forces. The content and context of this letter by Dr.Dwarkin shows how the powerful sources and forces play the influence game, even at the personal level. It has a clear message to all Albertans that there is a serious problem with the balance of power in our provincial democracy. The Royalty Review said it and the Auditor General said it too.

Premier Stelmach set up this process and he is to be congratulated for doing so. It now falls on him to show the proper respect for government’s role as trustee of Albertans natural resources and to reaffirm industry’s place as the tenant on that public property not a tyrant trying to intimidate our citizens.

The best way to do that is to accept the recommendations of the Royalty Review Panel. Then Premier Stelmach, you need to clean up the culture of contempt for responsibility that is owed to the citizen’s of Alberta that has been found in some corners of your government.

Dr. Dwarkin’s letter shows just another example of how this power imbalance is practiced and applied on some people. Here is what Dr. Dwarkin said in her letter of apology yesterday to some of her fellow panelists.

Hello Evan, Andre, and Sam:

I very much regret how things transpired yesterday and understand completely your disappointment/surprise. I am sincerely sorry for not getting the RSEG report to you in advance, and providing you with the context for it in advance.

As I said in my note yesterday after the fact, I planned to send it to the panel when I got back from Edmonton (the final version was being finalized while I was in Edm.), together with the context in which it was done and more information about how things are done at RSEG . Unfortunately, things didn't happen this way and I am very, very sorry for this.

I also am really distressed and sorry about the way the report is being portrayed by the media as some sort of repudiation of the panel's report. This is absolutely untrue. RSEG endorses the panel's report, the thought process that went into it, the principles used to develop the recommendations.

RSEG is suggesting a refinement to one of the (dozens of) recommendations. My contribution to the work product was to share my personal view on this particular aspect.

Please know that there are some observations/characterizations in the RSEG report that I strongly disagreed with - for example, the one about 'short cuts’, that Texas isn't a good comparable for Alberta, the reference to lacking the requisite 'expertise'.

The report's other authors don't have all of the information about how the analysis was done because it isn't in the public domain, and they weren't convinced by my insistence that it wasn't an issue of 'industry expertise' or incorrect methodology.

I was horrified when I got back to my office late on Wednesday afternoon and saw that the final report had gone out with this stuff in it. If it's of any comfort to you - and I understand it probably isn't - please know that I wrestled several other unfair criticisms out of the report before that.

The language in RSEG's report is provocative in some places. If you were familiar with RSEG reports, this wouldn't surprise you. I did request it be toned down before this report was sent out but was over ruled. What everyone - especially the media - needs to appreciate is that one of the remarkable features of the panel report is that it reflects a BALANCE of views on a very complicated topic.

No one particular viewpoint dominates the recommendations. This is why the govt constructed a panel whose members came from a variety of backgrounds - it wanted to understand the BALANCE of views. The other remarkable thing about the panel report - that each of us emphasized during the meeting yesterday - is that it sets out a set of principles, concepts and framework to guide the government's decision.

The report has moved the debate to a fundamentally different place. As I said yesterday, this is a sea change.

In my dealings with the media, I am focusing on these points and that the RSEG report is a suggested refinement to a very solid proposed structure.

If any of the comments here would be of use to you in your own dealings with the media or others, please make use of them.

Judith Dwarkin

Chief Economist

Ross Smith Energy Group Ltd.