Friday, October 26, 2007

Thank You to the Expert Panel for the "Our Fair Share" Royalty Review Report.

The government's announcement yesterday is truly historic, and marks a new beginning in Alberta's stewardship of its natural resources. We Albertans owe a great debt of gratitude to the citizens who served on the panel and the various consultants, advisers and Alberta government administrators who helped them.

The final decision of the Stelmach government decision on the royalty review recommendations is historic. Part of the historic nature of the decision is how very closely it aligned with the major themes of the “Our Fair Share” Royalty Review Report recommendations. For example the province decided to implement the 20% recommended royalty rate hike but in a slightly different mix than suggested by the government appointed Expert Panel.

Overall, the government changes vary little from the goals of the Expert Review Panel. The new Stelmach framework will boost government take for natural gas from 58% today to 60%, rather than 63% as recommended by the panel; for conventional oil, government take goes up 5% to 49%, which is what the panel proposed; for oil sands, government share increases to between 57% and 66%, when the panel was recommending an increase to 64%."

The move to a price sensitive base royalty is largely the same thing as the Panel’s recommendation for a Severance Tax with a slightly different trigger price and a few other technical differences.

The months of intense research, review, revision and rehashing and yes I expect lots negotiation between the panel members would not have been easy. They researched, wrote and presented a comprehensive frank and forward thinking document. It is an esay read, full of clarity and sound analysis, and in the end it proved to be a quality piece of work reflecting a great deal of collective wisdom.

Another historic event was when Premier Stelmach immediately released the report upon receiving it. That early non-traditonal report released pioneered a new and novel openness to modern democracy and enabled an informed debate in Alberta. That unprecedented move fueled a province-wide discussion and dialogue amongst Albertans in all walks of life about the future of their province.. It empowered people and encouraged them to become informed. It created a wave of citizen engagement amongst Albertans in their democracy that you don’t even see at election time.

However, the “Our Fair Share” Royalty Review Report obviously spoke volumes to the people of Alberta and the Government of Alberta. The Stelmach response shows he accepted the essence, pith and substance of the Royalty Review Report findings and made only minor modifications to the final recommendations.

Even the opposition Liberal party came out endorsing it. In addition, virtually unanimous agreement on the key issue outlined in the report amongst all of the political parties of note in this province. That range of political support is historic too.

So, as one Albertan to the Panel, I what to say thank you to all those who worked so hard, long and effectively on the “Our Fair Share” document and especially the six experts who lead the effort. And thank you Premier Stelmach for embracing the concepts and adapting them so effectively for the future prosperity of Alberta. In my mind almost equally as important was the way Premier Stelmach openly enabled and encouraged the inclusion of Albertans and how we Albertans became informed and engaged so effectively in the future of their own province.
I smell some real democracy in the clean fresh Alberta air again...and it is about time.