One of the most anticipated moments in Alberta's political history finally arrived yesterday afternoon. In a crowded room in Calgary, Premier Ed Stelmach and Energy Minister Mel Knight outlined the changes to Alberta's royalty regime.
First off, I was very impressed with both of these men as they delivered their remarks and subsequently took questions. Neither are flashy speakers, but they damn sure know what they're talking about. Unlike the way Liberal "Shadow Minister" Hugh MacDonald (arguably the dumbest man ever elected to the Alberta Legislature) stumbles and bumbles his way through this file, the way the Premier and Minister Knight are able to cite figures, studies, etc. off the cuff tells me that they take their jobs seriously and understand the importance of "getting it right".
I think they did.
Of course, a lot of the talking heads in the oil industry had predictions of doom and gloom. This is no surprise since their job is to defend big oil at all costs and because they've been spouting the same negative spin for months. Don't get me wrong, I grew up in the oilsands and have a tremendous respect for the resource and those who help develop it. But i'm sure i'm not the only one who's getting a little tired of Pierre Alvarez's ongoing rendition of Chicken Little.
Thankfully, news items like THIS and THIS should keep the aforementioned talking heads quiet for a little while as they rework their talking points. Continued predictions of economic collapse while the media reports that things are fine and profits are still soaring could lose them the few friends they have in the public domain.
I haven't yet read the report in detail. There is so much analysis to pour through that it will certainly keep many of us busy for the next few days.
One of the things that did jump out at me, though, was THIS. Incentives for refining and upgrading OUR oil at home just make sense. We have the technology and the expertise to make it happen. It is also an excellent tool to help spread the "Alberta Advantage" out from Fort McMurray and the Highway 2 corridor into parts of rural Alberta that haven't prospered as equally as the larger centres. Its our resource and we should be doing what we can to extract maximum value from it before we ship it down the pipe.
I'm also glad that, while there will be some major adjustments (particularily for my hometown monoliths of Syncrude and Suncor), industry has a reasonable-but-not-excessive time frame to prepare. On top of that, continuing the deep-gas royalty holiday will help salvage what was an already-threatened drilling season. Smart, fair policies all around.
I, like most of you, will have more to say in the days ahead as we continue to dissect the new royalty regime and the public's reaction to it. In the meantime, normally hard-headed columnist Neil Waugh has an excellent piece that sums it up pretty well.
Someone should send it to Graham Thomson and Don Braid... it'll blow a little sunshine up a part of their anatomy that appears to be home to a couple of large sticks at the moment.