The Stelmach government doesn't want to discuss royalties or homelessness. Rather they want to talk about busting speeders and smokers. The best laid plan of mice and Tired Old Tories.....And it took the NDP to force the debate.
The legislature will try to debate 26 bills during the month-long session, but royalties took centre stage on the opening day despite the fact no legislation is being introduced on that issue.
NDP Forces Emergency Debate On Energy RoyaltiesNov, 05 2007 - 4:20 PMCALGARY/AM770CHQR - The fall sitting of the Alberta Legislature got off to a raucous start Monday afternoon, as oil and gas royalties became a hot topic during question period.
NDP leader Brian Mason was also successful in forcing an emergency debate on the issue, by getting a Standing Order approved.
Premier Ed Stelmach told the legislature he can't see how the province was shortchanged because of the tremendous prosperity Albertans have enjoyed in recent years. But the NDP and Liberals disagree.
"The auditor general said this minister had access to information showing that their royalties could be raised without hurting the industry and he denied it in this house," Mason said. "How can you condone that, Mr. Premier, why don't you do the right thing and fire that minister?"
Knight and Stelmach largely dodged questions about their roles in past royalty reviews, preferring instead to focus on the government's overall performance.
Knight took issue with opposition claims that the province missed out on billions of dollars in royalties. "There are no missing billions. Those dollars remained in the province of Alberta, were invested, were a magnet for additional dollars," Knight said. "The royalty structure in the province of Alberta is a policy set by the government. The policy is not set by reports that are developed both internally and externally and are given to any minister at any point in time."
Funny that's not what the Auditor General or the Royalty Review Committee said. They said Knight and his Department had NOT collected billions in royalties.
Last month, Auditor General Fred Dunn said the Tory government knew at least three years ago that it was losing royalties from energy projects in the province.
He slammed former energy ministers and their staff for identifying, but not collecting, about $1 billion per year in fees owed by oil and gas companies.
In light of those findings, the NDP hounded the Tories Monday over why the current energy minister was unaware of what his predecessors knew about the province's royalties."What I'm saying is there is not billions of dollars missing any place," Energy Minister Mel Knight said. "There is no requirement for me to get a briefing from any previous energy minister in respect to the royalty structure."
Mason Hits The Bricks
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