EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition New Democrats are condemning another sole-source contract handed out to a close associate of the United Conservative Party government.

A recently released document shows David Yager, a longtime oilpatch executive, journalist and conservative activist, is being paid $70,000 to review the Alberta Energy Regulator. The information is contained in government disclosure statements that are released quarterly.

The disclosure reveals little about what Yager has been asked to review. It refers to a "review" of the regulator — one of Alberta's most important public bodies — and gives an end date of February.

Neither Alberta's energy ministry nor Yager were immediately available for a response. A spokesperson for the regulator said it had no comment.

Rules posted on the government's website say sole-source contracts can be issuedwhen "it can be demonstrated that only one supplier is able to meet the requirements of a procurement."

NDP critic Kathleen Ganley questioned Thursday whether that rule was applied in this case.

"In a province full of energy experts, it leaves you to wonder what the work is, if the outcome is predetermined."

Ganley said there has been no information on what the review is to consider or on the process for public input. The regulator adjudicates some of the most wide-ranging and contentious issues in the province, including coal mining, oilpatch cleanup and tailings pond management.

Ganley called Yager a conservative "partisan."

Contract for Alberta Energy Regulator review handed to oil exec and pal of Premier Danielle Smith. #abpoli

Yager's website lists a long history of involvement in conservative politics, including fundraising for the former Wildrose Party, running as a candidate for the Wildrose, supporting its merger with Alberta's Progressive Conservatives to form thenow-governing UCP and advising Energy Minister Brian Jean.

Yager has claimed to have helped convince Premier Danielle Smith to enter politics. He also once compared the former New Democrat government to a terminal disease.

It's the second recent sole-source for Yager, who also worked on a report on Alberta's energy future — a report that has never been released.

"What it looks like is the premier hired an insider to do a report to give her the answer she wanted," Ganley said. "It's incredibly troubling."

In an article written in 2019, Yager laid out his vision for a revamped regulator.

"That the AER should ensure the industry cleans up after itself is within its mandate," he wrote. "How it accomplishes this must be re-examined."

Yager said court rulings that put environmental liabilities ahead of creditors during bankruptcy have squeezed energy companies.

"Troubled companies can’t borrow to stay onside with (the regulator's) decommissioning deposits," he wrote. "Is this what the (regulator) should be doing, when many companies are experiencing financial difficulties?"

Yager argued the regulator's role has expanded to include environmental and social questions. Those questions should be decided elsewhere, he wrote.

"Alberta’s energy regulator was not created to make political decisions, nor should it be permitted to do so."

He said industry critics are uncompromising and that attempts to find middle ground are doomed to fail.

"While the stated mandate is not to say, 'No,' the increasingly long, costly, convoluted and uncertain path to 'Yes' makes an agency review, and possibly an overhaul, essential."

Ganley said any review of the regulator must not only be conducted in public, it must be released publicly.

"The (regulator) does some pretty important things."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2023.

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Danielle Smith is clearly working for the oil & gas industry and not the people of Alberta once again. Hiring a pal to review an important regulator is like hiring a fox to guard the hen house. Just another string of UCP failures in the making and Albertans will ultimately pay the price.

And the TBA cult members will continue voting against their own interests.

More of the same! Hire an oil executives to evaluate the system he and Big Oil already control!
The regulator, the UCP, and much of Alberta's bureaucracy is what pros call captured. It has been captured for decades by big oil, therefore no-one can remember or even know what non captured means or what we public expect from our government.

What a shock, the puppet string twitched and the puppet appointed another puppet to "oversee" the puppet master.

There is a common standard in project management best practices to protect the owner, in this case the public, from damage from development or extractive operations. It's called a bond. You don't get the project until a bond is posted.

Another would be a cumulative fund set up during the land lease application process, based on a fractional royalty imposed on companies who win bids for the right to drill and extract oil and gas on parcels of crown land. The fund would build over time and be used to finance (or be used as a refundable hold back) the cleanup of extraction operations once completed.

These are two methods to obtain surety or financial guarantees that addressing environmental liabilities will be in place BEFORE a company starts drilling. It also gets around the tendency for insincere large outfits to sell off well sites to smaller companies once extraction is complete and profits are secured. Said smaller companies often do not have adequate resources to finance well cleanup or properly decommission them to defined standards.

The situation in Alberta stinks. The puppeteer has converted elected MLAs and staff in several ministries into zombies. The puppetmaster acts like it owns the public's resources, and the people, who are the actual owners, have willingly let them by succumbing to the false narrative of perpetual low cost wealth creation and economic power forever.

The day of reckoning is just around the corner.

This is not to say that bonds and royalties are meant in this case to continue extraction and emissions.

This IS to say that these standard financial instruments should have been put in place decades ago, and the fact they weren't, at least to an effective province-wide extent, is indicative of the extent industry has imprisoned government.

In many respects, it's too late to impose these methods when climate objectives are now superseding the entire fossil industry. Let's hope the feds never succumb to any call by a couple of buck passing dinosaur provinces to foot the massive bill to clean up the most profitable industry's mess.

Woe to any federal government that does.

So the TBA brain trust doesn't think AER is in big oil's pocket enough. These transparent alt-rights think people don't notice these things as they flood the zone with shit.