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Alberta’s oil and gas royalty review started off as an NDP campaign plan to squeeze more money out of the oil sector, but is morphing into an industry survival strategy as the oil shock and tax hikes continue to depress activity.
The evolution was in plain sight Monday evening, when review panel chairman Dave Mowat, president and CEO of ATB Financial, promised “a strategic look to set us up for success” as he faced a testy oilpatch crowd during a community engagement session in downtown Calgary, where many have lost their jobs.
From corporate directors to recent hires, geoscientists to consultants, hundreds responded to an invitation to share their views on royalties with the four-member panel, which is due to give its recommendations to Premier Rachel Notley’s government by December.
And they provided an earful. Many questioned the $3-million exercise during an already-tough oil price downturn. Some worried recommendations would be politicized to fit the NDP agenda. There were even calls for government incentives to give the sector a boost.
Among the feedback:
“Why are we having this now? Why not wait until oil stabilizes?”
“You are exposing Alberta to risk by pushing for refining and upgrading.”
“If it’s not broke, why fix it?”
“The NDP, everything they have done has driven investment out of Alberta.”
“Are you considering the employment piece?”
“35,000 jobs have been lost to date. People in this room wonder if they will have a job this week.”
“Can’t you keep things constant for the oil and gas investor?”
The panel’s mandate is to review Alberta’s royalty system and identify opportunities to provide optimal returns to Albertans; encourage investment; encourage diversification opportunities such as value-added processing; support responsible development.
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