The oil and gas business, it appears, has an increasingly dim view of Alberta as a place to invest.

A survey of more than 500 industry executives by the Fraser Institute says Alberta is ranked eighth, dead last, as a place to do business among the oil and gas producing provinces.

But Premier Ed Stelmach says the economy isn't completely mired in gloom. "Our population is increasing," he says, "and our birth rate is up dramatically. I think we're delivering something like 140 babies a day, so that's the positive side."

The negative, however, is attracting attention from outside Alberta. Ninety energy service companies from British Columbia are holding an exposition in Calgary, to pitch B.C. as "the" place to do business. One of their main points is the continual reworking, by the Stelmach government, of the Alberta royalty framework.

"It's a frustrating scenario," says Dan Boyle of IPAC Service Corporation. The company is headquartered in northern Alberta, but is now finding a lot of work in B.C. because in Alberta where "the market changes so dramatically from one day to the next, with an announcement here and an announcement there, it's going to have a negative impact."

Stelmach says on Thursday, there'll be another adjustment to the royalty framework, and he also says the province will actively look to overseas markets for oil and especially natural gas sales.