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  • True, Lasting Reconciliation November 21, 2018
    For the first time, a report outlines what implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could and should look like at the provincial level. This report focuses on implementation in BC law, policy and practices. Fundamental to the UN Declaration is an understanding that government must move from a “duty […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Boom, Bust and Consolidation November 9, 2018
    The five largest bitumen-extractive corporations in Canada?control 79.3 per cent of Canada’s productive capacity of bitumen. The Big Five—Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil and Husky Energy—collectively control 90 per cent of existing bitumen upgrading capacity and are positioned to dominate Canada’s future oil sands development. In a sense they […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • A new Director for CCPA's BC Office: Message from Mary Childs, Board Chair October 24, 2018
    The CCPA-BC Board of Directors is delighted to share the news that Shannon Daub will be the next BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Last spring, Seth Klein announced that, after 22 years, he would be stepping down as founding Director of the CCPA-BC at the end of 2018. The CCPA-BC’s board […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Who Owns Canada’s Fossil-Fuel Sector? October 15, 2018
    The major investors in Canada’s fossil-fuel sector have high stakes in maintaining business as usual rather than addressing the industry’s serious climate issues, says a new Corporate Mapping Project study.? And as alarms ring over our continued dependence on natural gas, coal and oil, these investors have both an interest in the continued growth of […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Pharmacare consensus principles released today September 24, 2018
    A diverse coalition representing health care providers, non-profit organizations, workers, seniors, patients and academics has come together to issue a statement of consensus principles for the establishment of National Pharmacare in Canada. Our coalition believes that National Pharmacare should be a seamless extension of the existing universal health care system in Canada, which covers medically […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Andrew Coyne Off the Rails

Although I generally disagree with Andrew Coynea€?s take on economic issues, I enjoy his commentary because it is almost always articulate and well-informed. Last Saturdaya€?s column, which may be his second-last at the National Post before moving to Macleana€?s, was a glaring exception.?? In particular, it contradicted??Coyne’s own previous contentions.

When the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador took an equity stake in Hebron a couple of months ago, he wrote, “therea€?s something bizarre about the government paying for the right to participate in the extraction of a resource it already owns.” (In fact, offshore resources are technically owned by the federal government.) Now that the Government of Alberta is starting to behave more like a resource owner, Coyne has bought into Terry Corcorana€?s philosophical musings about how “there is no divine right that decrees the provincea€?s oil and gas reserves should belong to the state.”

Corcoran??and Coyne seem to think that, since natural resources do not theoretically need to be provincial property, Alberta should be content to continue giving away these resources for less than they are worth.?? I suppose that this argument might have merit in some parallel universe, in which Canadaa€?s legal and constitutional history had been completely different.

The Post printed the following letter from yours truly on Tuesday, but edited out the second sentence, which I thought was critical to the lettera€?s flow:

Re What is Albertaa€?s Fair Share?, Andrew Coyne, October 27.

Regarding resource revenue, Mr. Coyne asks, “why is it a€?fairera€? that the government should have it than the oil companies?” Last year, he derided low stumpage fees as a costly subsidy to the lumber industry. He should recognize low oil and gas royalties as a far costlier subsidy to a far more profitable industry.

Mr. Coyne then asks, “why dona€?t they just auction it off?” Of course, provincial governments do auction off exploration and development rights. However, like virtually all other oil-producing jurisdictions around the world, they understand that this process does not capture the full value of fossil fuels. There are not enough potential bidders (i.e. oil companies) for genuinely competitive auctions. Also, bids are severely discounted because the resourcea€?s value is unknown prior to exploration and development.??

Auctions would be particularly impractical in Albertaa€?s oil sands, almost all of which have already been leased to a handful of companies. Clearly, royalties must be charged. Mr. Coyne should applaud Alberta for moving these royalties modestly closer to the true value of its oil and gas.

Erin Weir, economist, Canadian Labour Congress, Ottawa

UPDATE (Nov. 18): In writing that Coynea€?s strange column on resource royalties might be his second-last at the Post, I incorrectly anticipated that he might have some sort of final “farewell column” there. Although no such column has appeared, I note that his debut column in Macleana€?s returns to his usual high standard.

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