What will determine my vote on April 23rd? I suppose it will surprise no one that I will vote based on the energy and environmental policies of the parties. My key issue list includes 5 categories: 1) Savings, transparency, and accountability; 2) Market access; 3) Local environmental management; 4) Global environmental credibility; and 5) Getting the most value for our resources. Here are some of the questions I’ll ask the candidates who visit my house during the campaign, and some context for why I’m asking them. How does your party line up?
How will your party make the proceeds of resource sales more transparent, and to what degree will you save those proceeds for the future?
Alberta’s energy resources are, for the most part, Crown-owned. That means they are owned by the people of Alberta and managed, on our behalf, by the Government. Since we entrust the government with a capital asset worth billions if not trillions of dollars, we should ask and expect transparency in how that asset is managed. The first step in doing so, in my view, is to deposit all non-renewable resource revenues (land sales and royalties) into the Heritage Savings Trust Fund (HSTF). That way, the proceeds from the sale of one capital asset, the oil, are transferred into another capital asset, the Fund. From that point, you can spend the money in the Fund, but it will be accounted for as it should be – as a withdrawal from savings. Would you consider such a policy?
What proportion of the proceeds from the sale of these assets should be re-invested in other Crown assets, including but not limited to an investment fund?
How will your party make sure that the resources we sell command a competitive price?
Market access will determine the value of our energy assets – if we can’t sell resources for the prices they could otherwise command in the global economy, or if we have to spend more in transportation to get them to market, our resources are worth less and/or someone else is collecting the rents.
How do your party’s policies mitigate a potential Alberta Discount?
How will your party make sure that our environmental performance will not be used as a lever to capture and/or reduce the value of our resources?
The oilsands industry has become a target for global environmentalists, and is now symbolic of unsustainable energy production for many people in the world, not to mention Canada. As a result, from the EU to California, we’ve seen policies evolve which discriminate against Alberta’s oilsands relative to other sources of oil. How will your party’s policies change this?
Will your party commit to having reclamation liabilities accounted for in the province’s budget and to legislation to ensure that the province no longer underwrites environmental liabilities?
Alberta takes great pride in claiming to be debt-free, but I am not sure that is accurate. The current unfunded reclamation liability in the oilsands is likely well into the 10s of billions of dollars, and this attracts the lion’s share of attention, but we must also remember that many, smaller reclamation liabilities exist in the form of orphan wells and pipeline sites. How will your party change this?
What changes would your party make to our GHG and water policies?
I’d like to see a commitment to nationally- and globally-credible policies applied and/or maintained on water pollution and GHGs. Please, no platitudes or unattainable targets – tell me about the stringency of the policies you would propose and why.
Will your party restrict the export of raw bitumen, and how do you plan to manage bitumen received through the BRIK program?
First, a quick question – Will your party restrict the export of non-royalty bitumen?
Second, how will your party manage the bitumen collected through the bitumen royalty in kind (BRIK) program?
Under BRIK, producers turn over a percentage of their bitumen rather than cash to the government in order to meet their royalty obligations. By 2030, the Alberta government expects to receive over 500,000 barrels of bitumen per day in kind from producers, and these volumes could increase if prices stay high and cost inflation is kept under control (because of the sliding-scale, net revenue royalty regime). At today’s prices, that’s about $7 billion worth of bitumen per year – not small change.
Will your party choose to provide BRIK bitumen at a discount to those willing to upgrade it here in Alberta? Will your party pay a commercial upgrader to process BRIK bitumen and require that this commercial processor be located in Alberta? In Canada? Or will your party open the market for processing and/or commit to sell BRIK bitumen for the highest available price, regardless of where that market may be?
Thanks for visiting my house!
The platforms of the various parties on each of these dimensions will, more than anything else, determine who gets my vote in 2 weeks. I hope you’ll think about some of these issues when deciding on your vote as well. I welcome responses from any of the parties to this post, including links to relevant policy documents.
Conflict of Interest Disclosure: As you can read here, I am not nor have I ever been a volunteer for or member or employee of any political party nationally or in any Canadian province.