A secondary report on Alberta’s oil royalty regime will be delivered to the Stelmach government today — and its findings could set off another explosive round of political firecrackers when it’s publicly released at a later date.
At issue is what the Liberals labelled the “missing billions” in oil royalties when they argued during the fall session of the legislature that Albertans had been “shortchanged” by the province for years.
A month earlier, reports from an independent review panel and the auditor general suggested that the province had missed its own targets for royalties and knew about it for several years.
Energy department spokesman Jason Chance says Valentine’s report will recommend the systems in which future royalties can be collected and how the public can be kept informed.
The issue of the “missing billions” is a red herring, he said, since the rate of Alberta’s royalty regime was a policy decision.
“The bottom line is that, in the past, the royalty system has collected every dollar that it was intended to collect,” he said.
But in the fall, Auditor General Fred Dunn released his own findings that state how the government’s internal reviews of royalties were too vague while targets were “often described in contradictory ways.” The energy department had also estimated, his report states, that it could collect at least $1 billion more in royalties without “stifling industry profitability.”
Premier Ed Stelmach’s response was to appoint former auditor general Peter Valentine to study how the province could administer the collection royalties. Stelmach also raised royalties significantly in October, but at a level roughly $500,000 less than a review panel had recommended.