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January 31, 2008
Fair Share or Short Changed?
by James D. Tocher
One day in 1951 I drove out to see a farmer who owned the mineral rights on his land south of Edmonton. I found him on his tractor in the middle of a field. As I approached he shut his tractor off, dismounted and walked over to greet me. After explaining that I represented Imperial Oil he looked all around the barren field as though he was checking to see if anyone might be listening. He moved close to me and said in almost a whisper, “There’s oil under this land, just over there.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “when I drive the tractor over that quarter I can tell it’s hollow down there where the oil is.”
After listening to the commentary of a lot of Albertans during the recent royalty debate, I wonder if we have gained much more understanding of the industry than my farmer friend had nearly sixty years ago. Premier Stelmach chose to open the question of royalty rates by appointing a panel of “experts” to hold public hearings and come up with recommendations to insure Albertans are getting a “Fair Share”. Whatever that means the inference in the mandate itself was that we must not be getting our fair share, so the expectation from the beginning was that rates should be higher, and the panel’s job was to determine how much higher. While I am sure the panel members are honest well meaning people it seems strange that not one of them represented the industry, and only one had ever worked for an oil company, albeit in a “downstream” capacity.Read entire backgrounder in Pdf format (7 pages)
About the Author
James D. Tocher
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."