Seems as though the government hasÂ a hard time covering it’s tracks these days.Â This news seems pretty important to me, why is it just appearing on the 7th page?Â
New documents show royalties loss was billions; Alberta Energy mistakenly released secret information
The Calgary Herald
Sat 05 Jan 2008
Byline: Darcy Henton
Source: Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON – Alberta Energy told the provincial government in 2004 the province was missing out on billions of dollars in resource revenue, newly released documents show.
In a 2006 report, the department estimated that since royalty rates were capped at certain price levels, Alberta had lost between $1.3 billion and $2.8 billion in “uncaptured economic rent” for natural gas alone in 2003 and 2004, or between $700 million and $1.4 billion a year.
One of the department’s teams called on the government to “increase conventional oil and gas royalties to restore Alberta’s fair share at high prices.”
Another section of the report, comparing Alberta with eight U.S. oil-producing states, showed the province ranked lowest in the percentage it took in royalties and taxes.
The information, inadvertently released by Alberta Energy, demonstrates the lengths to which the provincial government went to hide the fact that it has known for years Albertans weren’t getting their fair share, provincial Liberal energy critic Hugh MacDonald said Friday.
The documents, released to environmental activist Martha Kostuch just before Christmas, show key information about the royalty regime had been held back in documents released previously to opposition parties and the media.
“The reason they withheld this information until now is simply because of guilt,” MacDonald said. “They knew Albertans would be very angry with them. . . . It was deceitful.”
Alberta Energy spokesman Jason Chance said Friday the department was justified in “severing” information, and that the release to Kostuch of uncensored information was a mistake.
“It appears it was an unintentional administrative oversight in the FOIP (Freedom of Information and Privacy) process, and there was no intention to provide different information to different applicants,” Chance said. “There was information in that document that was severed when it was previously requested because it was deemed to be advice to a former minister.”
The government, he said, has been forthright and has released “hundreds and hundreds of pages” of royalty documents.
MacDonald said the Stelmach government has forgotten that Albertans own the resources.
“If the public had this information uncensored at the height of this debate last fall, Mr. Stelmach’s compromise royalty position would have been seen as an unacceptable compromise,” he said.
Alberta Energy “can’t hide behind FOIP whenever they don’t want to release information,” MacDonald said.
He said the new documents provide “100 per cent” confirmation of conclusions reached by the provincial auditor general and a royalty review committee appointed by Stelmach that Alberta hasn’t been getting its fair share of royalties.