Debate pre-empts government business
Opposition calls for resignations and hints of criminal wrongdoing opened the fall session of the Alberta legislature yesterday, as Premier Ed Stelmach’s Tory government was lambasted over oil royalties.
Liberals and New Democrats condemned the government’s recent modifications to the province’s oil and gas royalty regime, suggesting Albertans continue to be cheated of "billions" in revenue.
"We believe the loss to the people of Alberta will be in the millions, perhaps in the billions, because of the government’s stalling on this issue," said NDP Leader Brian Mason, who demanded Stelmach fire Energy Minister Mel Knight
During the emergency debate prompted by the NDP that suspended government business, Mason accused the Tories of caving to pressure from oil companies.
"This government has settled for peanuts."
The Liberals attacked on a different front, alleging that Knight willfully misled the assembly regarding royalties last April, and hinting that criminal proceedings might be in order.
"We’ve considered asking the police to get involved," Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said outside chambers.
"If this type of behaviour occurred in a publicly-traded corporation, very likely it would be criminally culpable," said Taft. "Sadly, in politics, the rules are too often different."
Knight, however, denied there’s any money missing from Alberta government coffers when it comes to royalties.
"There is no billions of dollars missing from any place," he said.
"The policy is not set by reports that are developed internally or externally and given to any minister at any point in time."
But Stelmach took a different tact, praising oil and gas companies for driving Alberta’s booming economy.
"When I look at this province, I can’t see where this province of Alberta was short-changed," he said.
"Given the fact that we have ‘For Hire’ signs everywhere in Alberta, that tells me that the money was reinvested in Alberta for not only developing the resource but it also created opportunity for many other Albertans and gave them a much better quality of life in terms of health care and education."
Stelmach agreed last month to adopt parts of the recent government-commissioned royalty review, calling for an additional $1.4 billion per year from oil and gas companies.