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NDP deftly picks royalty panel as media freaks out about low-key welcome for 'lightweight' U.S. politicians

Mowat, Trimbee, Tertzakian, Hanson, McQuaig-Boyd

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Alberta's New Democratic Party Government should get an A+ for its deft appointments yesterday to its promised energy royalty review panel, choices that send messages both that the industry will be treated fairly and the concerns of citizens they're not receiving a proper return for resources we all own will be taken seriously.

It will be hard for the opposition to respond with anything but praise for the appointments by Energy Minister Margaret McQuaig-Boyd to the panel of a respected energy economist, an equally respected former Alberta deputy minister of finance, and a small-town mayor from the heart of northwest Alberta's petroleum producing region.

Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist and managing director of ARC Financial Corp., Annette Trimbee, president of the University of Winnipeg and former Alberta deputy minister of finance, and Leona Hanson, mayor of Beaverlodge, join panel chair Dave Mowat, president of Crown-owned ATB Financial.

An A+ grade is unlikely to be awarded, however. The full-blown campaign of vilification and hysteria against the NDP ginned up by Thinktankistan and the Postmedia newspapers, with other mainstream media bobbing along in their wake, will likely continue for the next four years or so, just as was predicted in this space back in early May.

Initial media coverage of the appointments was low key, even apathetic, with emphasis on just how the prospect of an upward tick in the world’s lowest royalties is "spooking" the industry.

Instead, until yesterday's announcement at least, Alberta media were focused on the Wildrose Opposition's bizarre attack on the government for not treating the visit of a "lightweight" Republican presidential candidate and a couple of fellow travellers, literally, from inside the Washington Beltway as if it were a state visit. The characterization of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham as a lightweight, by the way, is Donald Trump's, not mine.

Still, it's a sign of just how slick the royalty panel appointments were that former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and former interim Wildrose leader Heather Forsyth -- both retired, the latter voluntarily, the former less so -- each Tweeted enthusiastically supportive comments.

Meanwhile, Alberta media had plenty to say about Thursday's Wildrose news release, in which Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao was quoted being "shocked" and "disappointed" that the entire NDP government wasn't at the airport with a brass band to meet Graham, best known for having his cell phone number given away by Trump, who needs no introduction.

In the absence of a colour party and a 101-gun salute Thursday, Yao rather presumptuously offered to meet what he termed the "top-level decision makers” himself, a suggestion that was sensibly ignored by the government.

Senator Graham, a Republican moderate who is said to be drowning in lousy polls, was on a visit to Fort Mac in the heart of Canada's tarsands, which suggests he takes his presidential ambitions almost as seriously as everyone else does. He was accompanied by Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic senator for Rhode Island, the U.S. jurisdictional equivalent of Prince Edward Island, and Congressman Tom Rice, Republican of South Carolina.

While Whitehouse is unlikely ever to occupy the government building after which he is apparently evocatively named, and several things could probably be judged to be finah than to be from Carolina, a cabinet minister from Alberta welcomed the Congressional trio anyway, notwithstanding the inaccurate Wildrose claim the New Democrats were "blowing them off."

Indeed, the delegation was hosted by Environment Minister Shannon Phillips after a welcome was scheduled, sensibly enough, once the American politicians' visit had been confirmed.

The Wildrose Party subsequently alleged Phillips only showed up because of their press release, a dubious claim that was nevertheless handled as if it were completely credible by the media. A reporter for the Edmonton Journal, to her credit, attempted to contact Senator Graham, although her calls, we are informed, were not returned. (Reporting hint: Trump can give you Senator Graham's number.)

Senator Graham is no stranger to Fort McMurray, having also visited in 2010 and pronounced the region's bitumen mining operations "acceptably clean" after a half-day tour.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Joe Ceci plans to hold a news conference Monday afternoon about the province's first-quarter fiscal update and economic statement, giving the usual suspects an opportunity to renew their interminable attacks on the Alberta NDP, although not the federal Conservatives, for policies pursued by Saudi Arabia.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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