Since the release of the Royalty Review Panel's report and final report (click here): big oil companies have been making threats about the "economic disaster" that will ensue in Alberta if the Stelmach government adopts recommendations to increase energy royalties.
Companies like Encana, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Exxon and Petro-Canada have all threatened to slash investment and lay-off thousands of workers if any changes are made to Alberta's now infamous penny-on-the-dollar oilsands royalty regime.
The AFL has been working on this issue for a long time and we know that these are empty threats. We need to stand firm and not be intimidated by Big Oil's scare tactics.
During the Klein years, the energy industry grew accustomed to getting its way and paying royalties which both the government's own expert royalty review panel and the provincial auditor general now describe as ridiculously low by international standards.
What that means is that ordinary Albertans - as owners of our province's energy resources - have been losing out on literally billions of dollars in revenue every year for almost a decade.
Instead of being available to pay for education, health care, infrastructure and other important public services, this money has been used to line the pockets of corporate investors and managers.
So the question isn't really "can we afford to increase royalties?" The real question is "can we afford not to?"
The bottom line is that, even if the proposed royalty reforms are implemented, oil companies will continue to invest heavily in Alberta - because it will still be one of the best places in the world for them to make money and because, frankly, they have nowhere else to go.
What you can do:
Contact your MLAs and the Premier. Tell them that working Albertans don't buy Big Oil's scare tactics - and neither should the government. Tell them that the royalty panel's recommendations should not be watered down and that, in fact, the government should go further. You can use this sample letter or write your own.
Learn more about the issue: See the Alberta Federation of Labour's presentation to the Royalty Review Panel. The Parkland Institute published a report, "Selling Alberta Short" on 17 October 2006 - both the report and the summary point out that the Royalty Review Panel's recommendations don't go far enough in helping Albertans get a fair share of resource revenues in this province.To see the report, summary and accomanying news release, go to the Parkland website. The Pembina Institute published a Resource Royalty Primer at the beginning of October - click here to read it.