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Dave Mowat, president of ATB Financial, to lead royalty review

Dave Mowat, president and CEO of ATB Financial, will lead a review of Alberta's royalty system.

Today's announcement on next steps for royalty review short on details

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd and ATB president Dave Mowat 22:26

Dave Mowat, president and CEO of ATB Financial, will lead a review of Alberta's royalty system. 

Mowat will appoint members of a panel that will come up with recommendations by the end of the year. 

"As one of four million-plus owners of Alberta's natural resources and bringing my understanding of just how important this industry is to Alberta, I want the best possible system for all of us," he said at a news conference with Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd. 

The decision to review royalty rates paid by oil and gas companies was part of the NDP's election campaign and was reiterated in the speech from the throne earlier this month. 

McCuaig-Boyd said the review delivers on the party's promises. 

"I think there was a concern from Albertans — are we getting our fair share. Could it be different? Could it be better? So we're delivering on that promise," she said.

"There probably should be a review every few years in anything like that. It's been a few years so I think it's quite a good time to do it."

Friday's announcement was short on details. Mowat and McCuaig-Boyd still need to discuss the number of people on the panel, the terms of reference and how they will consult with Albertans. 

Neither McCuaig-Boyd nor Mowat could say when industry could expect a change to royalty rates.They said industry would be kept updated throughout the process. 

Industry representatives won't necessarily be on the panel, Mowat suggested. 

"I think what the panel is smart people who understand the issues, have inquiring minds and who are creative."

The lack of detail in Friday's announcement alarmed opposition parties. 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said this only adds more uncertainty for the province's energy industry. 

"We don't support this review, especially given the low price environment, but we were at least hoping today's announcement would provide clarity for our energy and job creation partners," he said in a written statement.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark went even further. He called for McCuaig-Boyd to resign as energy minister. 

"I've listened closely to McCuaig-Boyd's statements since she became Energy Minister and I've given her a chance, but based on the haphazard and incomplete plan for a royalty review, I have lost confidence in her ability to do the job," Clark said in a news release.

"I call on Premier Notley to replace McCuaig-Boyd immediately."

Climate change panel 

Alberta last reviewed its royalty structure in 2007 when a panel recommended raising rates by 20 per cent or $2 billion a year. 

The government rolled back the changes after Premier Ed Stelmach faced a fierce backlash from the energy industry. Stelmach recently commended Premier Rachel Notley for vowing to launch another review

Evan Chrapko was on the 2007 royalty review panel. The Alberta entrepreneur said the energy industry will always complain that royalties are too high.

Chrapko said the regime is among the lowest in the world when you look at royalties in combination with land leases, corporate and carbon taxes. He said if Mowat's review is transparent and makes the royalty regime less convoluted, the results will be clear. 

"Out of almost sheer embarrassment as to where the last 44 years have left us, we will need to, as good capitalists, charge a more market-normal rate with jurisdictions we compete against," Chrapko said. 

The announcement about the royalty review comes one day after the NDP government announced the creation of a panel to make recommendations on Alberta's new climate change policy. 

Mowat said having these two reviews happening at the same time would provide industry with certainty in the end. 

"I don't think you can talk about energy without talking about the environment," he said. 

"We've heard on corporate taxes, we're going to hear on carbon and we're going to hear on royalties. If you're a company that's exactly what you want."

The Alberta government recently passed a bill hiking corporate taxes from ten to 12 per cent. That change takes effect on July 1. 

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