Yesterday, I heard the oil & gas sector in Alberta responding to the call for higher royalties by saying it might “kill the industry”, kill investment, kill jobs. I’m just a poor caveman lawyer, but I believe that when you set up an incentive program at $40/barrel oil and it goes to $80/barrel, you have some obligation to rethink your incentive program.
We don’t have anything like this gravy train in New Brunswick. Someone said yesterday that so far this incentive program has been worth $20 billion to the industry. Cold hard cash. In the words of the short lived but colourful former BNB Minister Kirk MacDonald, “That’s billion with a ‘b'”.
The only thing that would be similar in style to this would have been if the province had eliminated its royalty payments on Sussex natural gas to stimulate local economic development down there. But that, of course, was beyond the scope of our thinking and now that gas is doing a great job powering businesses and homes in New England.
I don’t blame the industry. They are in the rent seeking business. In many ways, their job is to extract the best deal out of government. But the government has to balance (how many times have I said that before) the needs of industry, the needs of the public, the needs of the environment and the future against the need for economic development.
We are not talking about tweaks here. The panel called for re-establishing the old royalty regime and this would result in at least another $2 billion in revenue for the Alberta government per year.
You remember Donald Duck’s uncle? The one who used to sit on his pile of money in his safe and look gleeful?
That’s Ed Stelmach.
*PS – for those of you that didn’t read my previous comments, I am not advocating in favour of the Post Secondary Commission recommendations. I am not qualified to make a knowledgeable comment one way or the other. My point is that if Saint John wants to keep its university (with six Cabinet ministers), it will likely keep its university.