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Alberta won’t change royalties: Redford

CALGARY — Alberta Premier Alison Redford says raising royalty rates for energy companies won’t be on the table as experts gather in Calgary this weekend to hash out the provinces’s financial woes.

“I don’t know what people are going to say on Saturday at the summit.

“I can predict what some people are going to say just based on their reputation,” Redford said Tuesday.

“But we made it very clear that we think supporting our energy industry is fundamental to our future economic success. There are other things we need to do as well but very clearly we will not change royalties.”

Redford will preside over an economic summit in Calgary that is being billed as an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to the province’s reliance on energy revenues ahead of the March 7 budget.

Redford said falling oil prices in the U.S. market will take a $6-billion bite out of Alberta’s bottom line next year and it’s time to figure out ways to improve spending and how to get the province off the roller-coaster of volatile energy revenues.

Redford’s predecessor, Ed Stelmach announced a new royalty framework in 2007 that would give Albertans their “fair share” of the resource they own.

However, the energy sector railed against that new regime, moving their investment dollars elsewhere.

It forced the Alberta government to do an about-face on its royalty framework to lure activity back to the province.

Redford said another matter that won’t be considered is the possibility of re-introducing health-care premiums.

The fees cost families about $1,056 a year before they were eliminated four years ago.

The Alberta Medical Association and the province have been negotiating a new deal for doctors for almost two years.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, the government imposed a deal on doctors last November, but later backed off, allowing talks to continue.

“The salaries of doctors in our whole provincial budget is 8.5 per cent of the provincial budget,” said Redford.

“That’s a pretty fundamental decision for us to make representing the people of Alberta as we move forward with a $6 billion revenue shortfall,” she added. “I’ve made it clear that we have no more money.”

 
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