Most students don’t know anything about the Alberta royalty review. But review chairman Dave Mowat, president and CEO of ATB Financial, understands why.
The review of Alberta’s royalty system, which which aims to optimize returns to Albertans for development of the province’s energy resources, while continuing to encourage industry investment, may seem complex or overwhelming to the younger populace. But that doesn’t mean students can’t have an opinion on the process, Mowat said.
“In a way, students have the most in play here,” Mowat said. “You’re going to live for 80 more years at least, and I’m not. If you wanted to guess the life expectancy on natural resources and how long the world is going to use carbon fuels, it’s your lifetime that’s going to be a really important period.”
The Alberta NDP government forecasted that it would earn $1.3 billion in bitumen royalties based on $1.54 per barrel of oil this year, 72 per cent lower than the last fiscal year.
The panel’s main mode of communication has been on their website, letstalkroyalties.ca. The website is a “conversation hub” which connects with the public, industry, experts, key stakeholders, the government and social media. Mowat and the Royalty Review Advisory Panel have been visiting post-secondary institutions to gauge the student voice on the province’s royalty system, but he said he admits that more should be done to reach that demographic based on their engagement with the topic thus far.
“I think we haven’t quite got our message out yet,” Mowat said. “We just have to break through and convince people that we’re never going to ask them a question they don’t have an answer to.
“You don’t have to know how the furnace works at the U of A, but we want heat that is regulated. We want heat that is consistent. If we can get them focused on the principles, they can have an opinion.”
The most common royalty review concerns Mowat has heard are whether Alberta is being “ripped off” by charging too little for the resources, or the worry that the province is pricing themselves out by charging too much. The environment has also been a popular concern.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Mowat and the panel will host a town hall on the royalty review at Macewan University and the advisory panel are expected to conclude their review by Christmas this year.
Til then, Mowat said he’s focused on engaging with the campus community, whether it’s getting their opinion or informing them as to what the royalty review even is.
“This is important because (students) live here and more than 20 per cent of the income from this province comes from the (energy) sector,” Mowat said. “It’s a conversation that we want to have with them where they have a good and valid opinion. Don’t be shy, because they’re just an important voice.”