Alberta Conservatives surrender unconditionally to oil industry

International signal flags: Above, “I have developed a sound and competitive energy royalty policy.” Below, “Help me, I need assistance communicating.” Below that, “Warning! I am discharging really dumb political strategies.”

They’ll be laughing out loud in the oil industry’s towers in downtown Calgary this morning. At least, that’s if the oilmen haven’t already abandoned their offices to dash down 8th Avenue to the bank to arrange vault space for all the extra cash coming their way.

Getting Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s timorous Tories to scrap their short-lived and modest increases to Alberta’s energy royalties turned out to be hilariously easy for the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry.

The industry’s been throwing a full-blown tantrum since 2007, when Mr. Stelmach responded to public anger about Alberta’s paltry royalty rates by bumping up royalties enough to supposedly collect an extra $1.4 billion. “Albertans made it clear that examining the province’s royalty regime was a priority to ensure they are receiving their fair share from energy resource development,” Mr. Stelmach said at the time. (Emphasis added.)

Well, that was then, before the oil industry threw its epic hissy fit. It wasn’t long before Mr. Stelmach and his legislative caucus were in headlong retreat. Last Thursday, they surrendered unconditionally, abandoning the last of the changes they’d trumpeted back in 2007.

Usually in Alberta, it’s not necessary for the energy industry to do much more than ominously chant “National Energy Program” to get Conservative politicians into line. Never mind that most of the economic damage ascribed to the NEP was caused by the worldwide recession of the 1980s. Facts notwithstanding, Albertans are weaned on the notion the NEP was an economic catastrophe, not to mention a vicious scheme by those Eastern Bastards to stay warm in the dark at our expense. Just saying the dreaded initials aloud is sufficient to induce hyperventilating rage.

When recession coincidentally followed Mr. Stelmach’s modest royalty increases in 2008, Albertans were treated to a powerful sense of déjà vu all over again by oilpatch propagandists and their faithful media sidekicks.

Back in the day, the industry would have organized a capital strike and sent the oilrigs south to Oklahoma if the government dared to get shirty about Albertans’ fair share of their natural resources. But who wants to do that when there are hydrocarbons to be extracted and customers lined up to buy the stuff?

So this time they had a novel idea: Take a moribund loony-right fringe party, slap some lipstick on its tired mug, pour a few hundred thousand dollars into its advertising budget and place at its helm an articulate right-wing commentator whose congenial manner belies her scary market fundamentalist dogma.

Clearly, this scheme worked admirably for the industry. Even if Danielle Smith never becomes premier and her Wildrose Alliance Party fails to win power, the threat they pose to the government has achieved its principal goal.

As Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason put it, “fearing for its political life, the Stelmach government has folded like a cheap tent.” Indeed, the Liberal so-called Opposition folded too. Alberta’s brief attempt to get something a little closer to a fair return for the people who actually own the resource was gone like a puff of smoke in a breeze.

A delighted David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, told an Edmonton newspaper that Stelmach’s capitulation “goes a long way toward repairing the province’s relationship with the oilpatch.”

Maybe. But what do you want to bet the industry goes right on supporting the Wildrose Alliance just the same. After all, why settle for most of what they want when they can have it all?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

4 Comments on "Alberta Conservatives surrender unconditionally to oil industry"

  1. Lou Arab says:

    I'm not sure you are being totally fair to the Liberal opposition.

    After all, in order for them to sell out, they had to have an energy policy worth abandoning.

    I'm not sure that was ever the case.

    Remember Kevin Taft running away from reporters looking for his opinion on royalties?

  2. cyberclark says:

    This roll back announcement is a farce and explains why Alberta is resisting a federal securities officer! I think they have left themselves open for lawsuits the way they have garnished their information.

    Alberta never, ever initiated the "new royalty regime". That was an empty document; a lie to get them elected last time.

    This is really no different than them working with the oil companies to propel the NEP farce!

    NEP? National Energy Program which was designed to give Canadians more ownership of the resources, which it did.

    Inflation was running close to 20%; Interest rates were above 25%; Oil prices were down to 20.00 per bbl US when considered in today's funds and, the Conservatives in the absence of open forum managed to convince Albertans it was the fault of the Liberals and the National Energy Program! It worked so well they have continued to lie to this day.

    Two years after the last election the AG in Alberta bounced the Government because they had failed to reach their targeted 19% royalty. Then came the crunch and the minster stated publicly there would be no new rates put in, in the foreseeable future.

    The oil companies are beating the the drums now to lend credibility to an election bungle saying they may stay, things will improve and other spin doctoring such as announcing "new" undertakings that have been on the books for six months.

    This is a grand theater, nothing more. The mentioned reductions take place in the scale where Alberta has never ever received any cash!

    Chase a taxi and you save more money than when you chase a bus!

    We still collect less than 1/2 of what BC or Saskatchewan does! What is there to cut?

    We are presently paying them to take the stuff out of the province and the Wild Rose Party, financed by the same oil companies promise more of the same.

    The Conservatives do not think this province is entitled to anything more than a lease on the land and income taxes, on par with the US Republicans.

    This rip off isn't going to change any time soon unless Albertans step away from the Conservative vote or, those people who though their vote would not mean anything will step up to the plate and vote.

    This announcement isn't even chewing gum for the mind! It is not just cheap theater; It is perpetrating blatant lies.

  3. John says:

    This roll back announcement is a farce and explains why Alberta is resisting a federal securities officer! They have left themselves open for lawsuits the way they have garnished their
    information.

    Alberta never, ever initiated the "new royalty regime". That was an empty document; a lie to get
    them elected last time.

    This is really no different than them working with the oil companies to propel the NEP farce!

    NEP farce?
    The NEP; National Energy Program" was put in effect to improve Canadian Ownership, which it did.

    At the same time Interest rates went to 25% and Inflation to 20%. People levered their homes to support new business enterprise and, all was lost. The Conservatives, in the absence of open forum which we now enjoy, managed to blame all the worlds problems onto the NEP.

    Two years after this past election the Auditor General in Alberta bounced the Government because they had failed to reach their targeted 19% royalty.

    After that time the minster stated publicly the Auditor General had no business looking into royalties and there would be no new rates put in,in the foreseeable future.

    The oil companies are beating drums now to lend credibility to an election bungle saying they may stay, things will improve and other spin doctoring such as announcing "new" undertakings that have been on the books for six months.

    This is a grand theater, nothing more. The mentioned reductions take place in the scale where Alberta has never ever received any cash!

    Chase a taxi and you save more money than when you chase a bus!

    We still collect less than 1/2 of what BC or Saskatchewan does! What is there to cut?

    We are presently paying them to take the resource out of the province and the Wild Rose Party, financed by the same oil companies promise more of the same.

    The Conservatives do not think this province is entitled to anything more than a lease on the land and income taxes.

    This rip off isn't going to change any time soon unless Albertans step away from the Conservative

    vote or, those people who though their vote would not mean anything will step up to the plate and vote.

    The Royalty announcement isn't even chewing gum for the mind! It is not just cheap theater; It is perpetrating blatant lies.

  4. Holly Stick says:

    cyberclark = John?

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