Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Royalties Day

To listen to some of the media, and some of the Tory caucus, you would think the Royalty Report was written by some anonymous group of Marxists (The People's Revolutionary Royalty Front?) sending it as a manifesto to select media outlets from their secret lair. In fact, it was written by a panel of primarily businesspeople, some from the energy industry, hand-picked by the Premier specifically to re-examine royalties in Alberta in the fulfillment on one of his leadership campaign promises.

Any cries from the oil industry about the unfairness of the findings are nothing but short-sighted NIMBYism. We all know that as buyers of this resource - owned by Albertans - these companies naturally want to get it at the cheapest price possible. But we're the sellers of the resource, so we should be interested in getting the best possible price for it. The Government of Alberta has a responsibility to get that price for us. The Royalty Review Panel attempted to determine how much that price could be, based on what the market can bear and what other jurisdictions charge.

This is why it's been so disappointing to me that the government has taken this long to announce how much of the report they're willing to accept, and (judging from the hints dropped so far) that they won't take the entire report:
The premier says the government's response will be balanced between what Albertans deserve for the province's resources, and the interests of the big oil and gas companies.
Wait - what? The government has a responsibility to the former, and none at all to the latter. If a government anywhere said that they were offering their unions a contract that strikes a balance between what the workers deserve to be paid based on what the market will bear, and the workers' desire to become independantly wealthy, the voters would rightfully scream bloody murder.

But it's been almost as disappointing to me that Kevin Taft wouldn't come out in full-throated support of the report at a minimum until yesterday, when it became clear that supporting the report would tactically be a position that would put the Liberals at odds with the government. Had he taken leadership with that position much earlier, would the government have felt more pressure to accept more of the report? It scares me more to consider that had the hints coming from the Premier indicated the report would be accepted wholesale, the strategy of differentiation pursued here by the Liberals might have led Taft to suggest that the report went too far.

Regular readers know I don't spare criticism for the NDP just because they're my chosen party. But in this, I'm proud that Brian Mason came out early and strongly to say that accepting the recommendations of the report is the minimum the government could do in order to execute their responsibility as custodian of this non-renewable resource.

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