Thursday, March 6, 2008

Its Payback Time!

Though I consider the jury out on whether Premier Ed Stelmach offers an improvement to the quality of government we will receive here in Alberta, I heartily support his decision to follow the recommendations of the Alberta Royalty Review panel's "Our Fair Share". Accusations by his critics that the Government was unethical or dishonest by increasing the royalty rates in a time when oil is selling for over $100 a barrel is just so much hot air. Without the transparency implied under Alberta's so-called "Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act" (a classic example of Orwellian doublespeak) to scrutinize the agreements involved, Albertans are truly in the dark as to how much of our resource wealth has been squandered to fire-sale prices, and failures to properly collect. Cloaked by the following section of FOIP, Albertans are forbidden from knowing details:
16(1) The head of a public body must refuse to disclose to an applicant information

(a) that would reveal

... (ii) commercial, financial, labour relations, scientific or technical information of a third party, (b) that is supplied, explicitly or implicitly, in confidence, and
(c) the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to
(i) harm significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the negotiating position of the third party,
(ii) result in similar information no longer being supplied to the public body when it is in the public interest that similar information continue to be supplied,
(iii) result in undue financial loss or gain to any person or organization ...
Now only 3 days after Ed Stelmach's landslide electoral victory, the Shell and Esso Strathcona refineries are reporting "coincidental" production shortages. Media analysts are speculating gasoline may hit $1.50 per liter ($5.68 a gallon) in the Edmonton area by May. Is this how the oil industry intends to recover lost profits from Alberta's increased oil royalty rates? Only a conspiracy theorist would think so. At any rate, it is time for Albertans to insist on repealing FOIP and replacing it with an Act that will cast sunlight on darkness.