Wednesday, 09 July 2014 14:42

Property rights is about cash

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Kevin Avram misses the point in his Letter To The Editor May 27, 2014 of The Medicine Hat News.

The property rights fight is all about cash. It has nothing to do with some rhetoric about driving government cars or any of the rest of Avram’s points. When Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes pointed out that Alberta should adopt the Saskatchewan lease policy, he opened the door to bring clarity to Albertans by having income from public lands open and transparent — as per his private members Bill 204 and the Wildrose policy about open and transparent government. What should be more transparent than the income off public lands? For example, a Saskatchewan leaseholder with 450 wells on public lands would receive a 30 per cent reduction in his yearly rent. It is open and transparent. In Alberta we don’t know.  What we do know is that an Alberta leaseholder with a similar number of wells receives somewhere north of $800,000 yearly for the wells on that grass land he rents from the public for around $70,000 per year. But right now, what lease holders claim is their right, supported by Avram, is all hidden from the public. When MLA Barnes brought forth the suggestion to adopt the Saskatchewan policy, he wanted to illustrate open and transparent handling of public assets. Prior to Barnes’ comments the Leader of the Opposition stated there are 1,500 new wells approved on public land every year in Special Areas. Until Danielle Smith brought that to light in the legislature, no one outside of Special Areas council would have a clue how many new wells are established there each year.
Do the math on that over 25 years.
The lease holders with oil and gas surface revenue would rather this remain hidden from the public, for the simple reason they know this entitlement to public largess is not right, but something that has gone on unnoticed. In fact if the Chair of the Western Stock Growers and the Chair of the Alberta Grazing Lease Association had not brought up the Thurber report in their mass mailout letter promoting the Keith Wilson property rights tour in 2011, it would probably have remained under the cloak of secrecy. The Wildrose is on the right track here, as illustrated by MLA Rick Strankman when commenting on the defeat of Barnes’ Bill 204: “With rare exception, public business should be done in full view of the public in the light of day with no hands behind backs.”
Mr. Avram, as a founding  member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), and now the Grassroots Alberta Landowner’s Association, is this not exactly what your group is supposed to uphold? Was not open and transparent public business, proper use of public dollars, finding and exposing places where the public is being taken advantage of exactly what you represented? It looks like MLAs Barnes, Strankman and Smith are doing a better job of exposing this than you or your former group.
Maybe Mr. Fildebrandt (CTF) should give this a look. Transparency is not a one way mirror.
Adair Prouty, Medicine Hat

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