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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Poll Asks If Stelmach Has Met Public Expectations on Royalties.

I love polls. The latest offering from Leger for CanWest was done from Oct 26-29, immediately after Stelmach’s Royalty Review Response was made public is interesting. The earlier Leger poll found 88 percent of Albertans did not think we were getting our fair share of royalty revenues and two-thirds of us wanted the Hunter Review Panels recommendations fully adopted. That didn't happen and apparently slightly less than half of us are on side with the government's response to the Our Fair Share recommendations.

Since the Hunter Panel report was made public, time passed, positions were taken, threats were made, we had explanations and clarifications. And there was a barage of accusations and predictions about dire consequences if the "Our Fair Share" recommendations were accepted. Through it all the Stelmach government did it own number crunching and made up its own mind.

The Leger results show more about how Albertans were “feeling” last weekend about the Stelmach royalty response. After all it is a complex set of issues and an opinion poll taken immediately after the Stelmach response and done over a weekend is most likely to engender an emotional and reactive response instead of a reflective and considered opinion.

So here is what Leger found about how Alberta "feels." First off we don’t yet have a breakdown between Edmonton, Calgary and rural replies and that is needed to get some better context on the answers. That breakdown will provide more “heft” to the results in terms of the political usefulness of the poll results too.

Secondly I am struck that about 1 in 5 Albertans didn’t yet know how they felt about the questions being asked. That could be because they need time to consider and understand the Stelmach response. It would be interesting to do the same poll this week and that would get a better sense of were Albertans are really at now that they have had time to digest the response and talk to people and read some of the commentary about it.

Thirdly, it is pretty obvious based on my Blog hits, that only 150 people showed up at the CBC Forum on the issue last night and recent conversations with my group of contacts tells me that Albertans have moved on. It seems that royalties are being regarded as a done deal - or - maybe they are merely catching their breath before further engagement. Time will tell.

The Lougheed Test of good policy decision of if all vested interests in the decision are still upset, you probably “got it right.” Seems to be the case here based on these poll results. The key question of did Stelmach get it right we have 47% agreeing, 33% disagreeing and 20% who don’t know. that seems to prove the Lougheed Test of "getting it right."

The most conclusive opinion in the poll was that 61% said the “…industry over-inflated the negative consequences of higher royalties….” 21% sided with industry’s positioning and 18% didn’t know. This is a serious issue for the energy sector now. Albertans don’t believe the industry and the industry can’t rely on the old contacts within government to protect or insulate them from the public (any more). This is especially true after the Auditor General’s Report and his scathing assessment of some aspects of the Department of Energy.

Our own polling has preliminary results showing a full 44% o fus do not trust any of the political party leaders to manage growth in Alberta. So as we go deeper into the election "red zone," our politicians are going to be much more mindful of meeting the public’s expectations as to their trustee role around resource development. Deals on royalties done behind closed doors will see politicians punished in the polls and at the ballot box – no matter who is in office.

Of course if Albertans go back to being passive and impotent- nothing will change. It is up to the citizens of Alberta to continue to become better informed and more engaged.

We need to start acting like an owner and behaving like a voter. An election is coming.