Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fire (Alberta) energy minister over royalty statements

This is not too surprising. No doubt politicians see rewards in protecting corporate profits while ignoring needs for infrastructure and social spending. I wonder what if anything members of the Calgary School such as Tom Flanagan think about the low royalties--or do they think they are too high?

October 3, 2007

Fire energy minister over royalty statements: Taft

Energy Minister Mel Knight should be fired, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said yesterday, accusing the minister of misleading the legislative assembly about oil royalties.

It came a day after the Liberals also called for Premier Ed Stelmach to hold an election and fire former energy minister, now seniors minister, Greg Melchin.

That stemmed from a damning report by the auditor general that leading politicians ignored their own staff and didn't raise combined energy revenue, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

"The public record clearly shows Albertans have been lied to," Taft said. "The auditor general tells the truth about the government's record of handling Albertans' resources; government ministers, on the other hand, have been misleading the legislature and the public."

Stelmach wasn't biting yesterday, saying he's "not interested in a witch hunt" against his ministers and continues to have faith in both.

The Liberals say they'll raise a point of privilege over the statements when the fall session of the legislature begins.

If Knight is found to have breached the rules of the house, he could face a range of penalties, although he could not be removed from office. Taft cited the Alberta Hansard, a record of statements in the legislature, in which Knight responded on April 30, 2007, to Energy critic Hugh MacDonald's question about a 2005-06 internal royalty review.

MacDonald demanded to know why a freedom of information request on the review came back with pages censored from one of the related reports, pages he later learned confirmed lower-than-standard royalty rates for Alberta.

First, Knight suggested there were "pieces of information in any report that may be fundamental bits of information that are required for the government's purposes that are not allowed out in public."

When MacDonald demanded to know why that would include a chart from a report within the tabled documents showing Alberta is being shortchanged, Knight responded that "there is nothing in any of those documents that would indicate to anybody that we have not collected a fair share of royalties for Albertans. I must add that that was a grand attempt at a question." In fact, the 2005-06 royalty report showed that department staff felt the province could be taking up to $2 billion more in revenue.

A spokesman for Knight said yesterday the minister wasn't referring to all of the tabled documents when he said there was "nothing in any of those documents" but to a specific report within the royalty package that had a chart censored under FOIP, and that MacDonald had asked about specifically.

Bob McManus said the reason the minister spoke in the plural may have been because he was referring to the individual pages of the individual report as separate "documents." He was not able to reach the minister for clarification by press time.

Knight also said in the same session that "under this government we are building a stronger Alberta, and the royalty review will prove that."

But the review, released just weeks ago and awaiting a government response, also confirmed Alberta is getting bargain-basement "economic rent" on resources.

No comments: