« Crucial details are missing from the framework.»




If political science professor Ian Urquhart received the Stelmach government’s new oil and gas royalty policy as a term paper, he would hand it back as incomplete.

"Crucial details are missing from the framework," Urquhart said yesterday during a panel discussion on Alberta’s oil royalties held at the University of Alberta.

"(It) should have told us what they think the contribution of royalties will be (by 2016). Any plan worth the label would have done that and the government didn’t do that, in my view."

Four other U of A scholars — economist Bev Dahlby, Oilsands Innovation Centre director Murray Gray, moderator Joseph Doucet of the School of Energy and the Environment, and business school dean Mike Percy — joined Urquhart to discuss the merits of Alberta’s royalty regime with a lunchtime crowd of about 120 people at the Lister Conference Centre.

"I think it’s a major change, endorsed by government and proposed by the royalty panel, as well, to bring in sliding royalty scales based on price," said Gray.

"To me that makes some sense because of the tremendous swings in oil prices we’ve seen in the last seven years."

The panel’s differing opinions prompted a question that summed up the attending public’s general attitude toward royalties: "What should the government do to get it right?"

The recent review ignored the work of a 1997 panel comprised of government representatives and industry players that agreed on a model and data for calculating petroleum royalties, said Percy.

"If everybody at least agrees on the structure and the data, you’re halfway there," he said.

"Then you’re really getting to the principle of how much residual (money) to capture.

"Right now, the debate’s all over the place."