Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moment of truth

Tonight and tomorrow Premier Ed Stelmach will finally be unveiling his response to the Hunter report on energy royalties. Since it was released more than a month ago, it's conclusions were reinforced by the Auditor General's report that Albertans weren't even getting the insufficient benefits of the existing royalty regime.

Stelmach's talk of 'balance' and hints of a pick and choose approach to the Hunter report suggest that we're about to be sold out. The complaints of oil patch executives, expensive PR firms and bussed in renta-crowds with matching hardhats notwithstanding, the Hunter report was a cautious thing with conclusions that don't really go far enough. Now its likely to be watered down even further.

Will Albertans stand for more of the same of the oil patch calling the shots with our wealth?

On the plus side, the word is that Stelmach will drive the final nail into Ralph Klein's war on public health care.

EDMONTON - In his first televised address, Premier Ed Stelmach will talk tonight about energy royalties, Alberta's future, and a commitment not to flirt with health-care privatization the way his predecessor Ralph Klein routinely did, government sources says.

Although Stelmach has long embraced a publicly funded health system and Health Minister Dave Hancock has essentially declared the great public-private debate to be over, the premier's election-style promise will have a key role in his 20-minute talk, designed to erase any perceptions Stelmach might return to one of Klein's most divisive stances.

Since Klein's attack on the public system played a bigger role in his downfall than anybody among the Tories is willing to admit, this is simply a formalization of Stelmach not wanting to throw his political career into the wood chipper that is any attempt to privatize health care.

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