ALBERTA’S NEW GOVERNMENT HAS ITS HANDS FULL by Mike Priaro, July 18, 2015, Linkedin, Updated July 21, 2015

Alberta’s new government under Premier Rachel Notley certainly has its hands full getting new cabinet ministers and MLA’s informed on legislative procedures, MLA duties, day-to-day governance issues, new departmental policies, and staffing.

However our NDP government’s most daunting tasks will be dealing with the scandals, mismanagement, oversights, and misguided policies the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party accumulated since the late Premier Peter Lougheed stepped down.

Such files sorely needing review and action include:

  1. Oilsands royalty review (announced and ongoing).
  2. Address diluent subsidy. Costs of diluent required to ship raw bitumen as dilbit are allowed as deductions before calculating royalties on net revenues.  This reduces royalties and government revenue and is effectively a taxpayer-funded subsidy encouraging the export of low-value, raw bitumen.
  3. Canadian Energy Strategy (general agreement reached July 17, 2015).
  4. Audit royalty calculations. General external audit required. For example, the PC government failed to collect $13 billion in royalties since 2009 due to a major calculation blunder according to Jim Roy, a former senior advisor on royalty policy for Alberta Energy.
  5. North West Refinery.  Re-evaluate economics under low oil prices to determine if more bitumen royalty volumes should be allocated to additional similar projects.
  6. Alberta Energy Regulator. Does it act in the public or industry interest?  Does it have a structural conflict of interest?  Should it be split into two?  Should it be replaced/eliminated?
  7. Jessica Ernst lawsuit. Admit the regulator breached its duty to recognize her civil rights, to protect her water supply, and to respond to her complaints.  AER and EnCana to compensate Ernst for legal expenses, damages, restoration of quiet enjoyment of her property, and make her whole again.
  8. Corporate, union donations. (Bill-1 limiting corporate and union donations to political parties enacted June 22, 2015).
  9. Industry influence peddling. Investigate impartiality of Alberta university boards and organizations such as the UofC School of Public Policy.
  10. Pace/quality of oilsands surface mined land reclamations.
  11. Athabasca River contamination. Review health effects of cancer-causing heavy metals and organic compounds in water released from oilsands operations.
  12. Oilsands tailings ponds environmental liability.
  13. Water licence approvals. Make process for approving surface water and underground aquifer withdrawals more transparent.
  14. Climate strategy review (announced and ongoing).
  15. Electrical transmission lines.  Re-examine the need and costs/benefits transparently, in the public interest, and with citizen input for new transmission lines and power exxports.
  16. Alberta Health Services. Premier Notley says the centralized AHS model will stay for now.  Is this the best model?
  17. Calgary cancer hospital (plans to build a new cancer centre at the Foothills Hospital announced by the NDP government July 8, 2015).
  18. Child welfare deaths. The Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald reported “The…(PC) government has dramatically under-reported the number of child welfare deaths over the past decade, undermining public accountability and thwarting efforts at prevention and reform.”
  19. Long-term care. Improve quality of care in private  facilities.
  20. Farm workplace standards.  Legislation is required to protect farm workers.
  21. Calgary ring road. The PC government delayed the $1.5 billion west leg from 2017 to probably 2025.  However, $275 million has already been paid to the Tsuu T’ina for land.  Can the west ring road function both as a true ring road and relieve traffic congestion headed downtown from the deep south or does it simply relocate traffic congestion?
  22. Flood mitigation projects. Expert panel, not PC government friends, to evaluate existing proposals and recommend best solutions for Bow/Elbow rivers.
  23. Government contracts tendering. General review of  process.  The Financial Post reported our NDP government is investigating “…a secret and untendered deal … between the former Tory regime and a private company with party connections that required taxpayers to foot … a $15 million rebuild of a flood-damaged (Kananaskis) golf course and extended the operating lease for another decade.”
  24. Government travel needs. Independent outside authority to determine needs recommend means required. Albertans took a $5-million loss on the sale by the previous PC government of three of government aircraft.  However, the real issue is the most efficient and cost-effective way to move government representatives around this province.
  25. Increase corporate taxes, eliminate the flat 10% income tax (done).
  26. Delinquent corporate taxes. Pursue delinquent provincial corporate taxes exceeding $1 billion (announced and ongoing).
  27. Commit to clear, honest, all-inclusive budget information.
  28. Accumulated deficit and debt service costs. Calgary Herald reports Alberta’s accumulated deficit now at $11.9 billion with $714 million in annual debt servicing costs.
  29. Heritage Savings Fund. Re-commit to re-build.
  30. Crown grazing leases. The Auditor General reports that ranchers, grazing associations, and corporations have 300,000 cattle on 5,700 grazing leases on Crown lands paying $4 million/year for grazing rights that would cost ten times more on the private market.  They can also sublease the rights at private, not public rates, and collect and keep entry fees paid by resource companies resulting in a revenue shortfall of $25 million.
  31. Green projects impact. Determine environmental/social cost/benefit of wind turbines, switch to natural gas from coal for power generation, and industrial/commercial/residential energy savings programs.
  32. Freedom of information.  Eliminate excessive redaction (censorship) and make information more quickly and easily available under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).
  33. By-election costs. What are legal options after former Premier Prentice’s unprecedented resignation.

Mike Priaro
Consultant, Independent Professional
Calgary, Alberta, Canada Oil & Energy
Current Independent Professional
Previous Amoco Canada, PetroCanada
Education Amoco Production USA Training Center

[Refer also to:

Tar Wars is here! Calgary Herald provides useful “guide to the cast of Tar Wars, a new local drama series starting this fall” ]

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