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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is Desperation Setting In as Some Try to Discredit the Hunter Royalty Review?

A comment on another post on the Blog about CAPP's claim in an Edmonton Journal Letter to the Editor that the Royalty Review Review Panel is no longer in full agreement on their recommendations is worth a post in itself. the anonymous commenter thinks because a consultant's advice on striking a balance between royalties or tax increases was not accepted by the Panel that the credibility of the whole report is suspect.

The commenter challenges me as to if I have even read the van Meurs Edmonton Journal piece. I have read the van Meurs op-ed and have it in front of me as I write this post.

Mr. van Meurs is not, and never was, a panel member or an author of the report. He was a consultant retained by the Review Panel to give advice. He wanted to see a higher severance tax and lower royalties as the approach to take to give Albertans their "Fair Share."

The expert panellists, who were actually tasked with the review job and appointed by the Premier decided a lower tax instead of a higher royalty was the best way to go.

So what? They disagreed but the process worked and a unanimous set of recommendations came out of the review panel.

Thanks to van Meurs' authenticity and integrity, Albertans got to see some of the differences and the range of options considered in the review. That is reassuring to me as to the quality of the deliberations.

This review process is a very different approach to openness and transparency in government than the cosy industry arrangements done behind closed doors in 2004.

Back then there was an internal review and a recommendation for royalty increases but they were refused by the Minister. Why? Because he felt there was enough cash flow into government already -not if is was fair to Albertans and no consideration of the resource ownership issues and the breach of the public trust such an attitude displays.

Or even consider earlier this year when the Energy Minister said, in the Legislature, that he had done an updated internal royalty review. Now we see that the AG finds out it that was not the case at all. Shame!

Remember also the intellectual dishonesty of some in the energy industry that used van Meurs' report on Alberta royalties from 10 years ago. They quoted old data at the public hearings on the Royalty Review to justify the status quo.

Yes. that is right. They had the gall to stand up in public and based on such outdated 10 year old information to say that there was nothing that needed to update royalties in Alberta. As if 1997 reflected 2007 realities and current public policy purposes.

The industry today says the panel used incorrect and non-current information in arriving at its recommendations. Too bad the Review Panel couldn't have put some industry players under oath at the public hearings to see if they would still so blatantly misrepresent the facts.

This attitude by some industry players - not all - is simply trying to play Albertans for suckers. It has been a successful industry strategy under the old Klein regime but it is not going to work anymore.