Alberta sets plans for energy-friendly legislation

* Bill One aimed at protecting energy investment

* Competitiveness Act to follow months-long review

CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Alberta’s government
hopes to mend ties with the Canadian province’s powerful energy
sector by starting its new legislative session with a bill
widely expected to cut back on oil and gas royalties.

Premier Ed Stelmach’s Conservative government, pilloried by
oil companies for royalty changes it instituted last year to
give residents a bigger share of energy wealth, has signaled
such a move by conducting a “competitiveness review” to
determine if its fiscal policies are driving away investment.

“Bill One of this legislative session, the Alberta
Competitiveness Act, will signal our government’s resolve to
make Alberta the most competitive jurisdiction in North
America,” the government said in its annual policy agenda,
delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Norman Kwong on Thursday.

“To do this, we must reduce the cost of doing business
here, including the cost of regulation, while at the same time
providing world-class services that are the hallmark of
competitive jurisdictions.”

Alberta is one of the largest oil and gas suppliers to the
United States. Its oil sands represent the biggest oil deposits
outside Saudi Arabia. About half the gross domestic product is
tied to energy.

Despite controlling a huge majority of the seats in the
legislature, Stelmach’s Conservatives have looked vulnerable to
criticism from the oil industry, which has complained that the
royalty changes made producing natural gas especially
unprofitable.

That view has helped bolster the rise in popularity of the
Wildrose Alliance, a further-right party that has preached
industry-friendly policies.

Stelmach has tinkered frequently with the new royalty
structure to try to stave off a drop in drilling, but has said
recently that the gas sector has suffered more from the
recession and development of massive shale gas reserves in the
United States and neighboring British Columbia. He launched the
competitiveness review anyway.

Results of that review, being done under the eye of new
Energy Minister Ron Liepert, are expected after the release of
the provincial budget on Tuesday.

However, in its agenda, the government said the bill “aims
to improve and increase partnerships between the government and
industry, which will help enhance the province’s business
environment and sharpen Alberta’s competitive edge in a global
economy.”

Besides changes for energy, the Competitiveness Act, will
feature moves to broaden export markets and promote value-added
opportunities in agriculture, it said.

The budget is expected to include spending cuts following
last year’s multibillion-dollar deficit, Alberta’s first in
more than a decade.

Investment Advice

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)

Alberta sets plans for energy-friendly legislation