(Recasts with comment from energy executives, political
By Nia Williams and Scott Haggett
CALGARY, Alberta, March 20 Alberta's powerful
oil and gas industry is keeping a close watch on the uncertainty
sparked by Alison Redford's abrupt resignation as leader of the
Canadian province, even though no change is expected in energy
policy for now.
Redford stepped down on Wednesday as premier of the ruling
Progressive Conservative party following a controversy over her
travel expenses and caucus infighting that left her party
floundering in the polls.
Some observers fear the political instability risks
deterring potential investors in the province's vast oil sands,
the world's third-largest crude reserve behind Venezuela and
After several lean years, energy deals are on the rise again
in oil-rich Alberta, with a number of acquisitions announced
since the start of the year.
Sonny Mottahed, chief executive officer at Black Spruce
Merchant Capital Corp in Calgary, said Redford's resignation
could steal some of that momentum.
"Any sudden departure will stir some excitement and create
some pause in short-term investment sentiment. The bigger
question will be what is next? Who will be her replacement?,"
he said, adding there could be a big opportunity for the
right-wing Wildrose party, now the official opposition, to gain
The Progressive Conservatives are one of North America's
most successful political dynasties, having run Alberta for more
than four decades.
But they have changed premiers three times since 2006 with a
fourth expected to be appointed within six months. Dave Hancock,
Redford's deputy, was chosen on Thursday to govern in the
"This is the third premier in eight years. They seem to
bring them in, chew them up and spit them out," said Keith
Brownsey, a politics professor at Mount Royal University.
"The party is in a great deal of trouble and business
certainly needs political stability. Investors will look at this
and say what kind of goofball is this? They are throwing a
premier out every two or three years."
Redford's predecessor Ed Stelmach had attempted to raise
energy royalties, but backed off in the face of fierce industry
opposition and the impact of the global financial crisis.
The Progressive Conservatives have since been steadfast
supporters of Alberta's oil industry. The Wildrose party is also
firmly business friendly.
Redford won plaudits from business leaders for promoting the
oil sands industry in Ottawa and Washington, supporting
TransCanada Corp's controversial Keystone XL pipeline
and setting up the Alberta Energy Regulator in a bid to
streamline the approval process for new projects.
Despite the uncertainty, analysts said there was little
chance of an abrupt switch in energy or fiscal policy. Alberta,
the largest source of U.S. oil imports, is flush with cash from
oil sands production in the northern part of the province.
"Redford's resignation doesn't really change Alberta's
near-term outlook, Warren Lovely, senior economist at CIBC World
Markets. "The province can still be expected to lead the country
in terms of economic growth in the year(s) ahead. Nor does her
departure jeopardize the immediate fiscal outlook."
Attention is now focused on who will succeed Redford, but
none of the potential candidates, who include Finance Minister
Doug Horner and Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, are expected to
"I have not heard about any of the potential candidates
talking about any energy policy other than the status quo," said
Mike Dunn, an analyst at FirstEnergy Capital.
Interim premier Hancock, a long-serving member of the
Progressive Conservative party, represents a constituency in
Edmonton, the provincial capital, and was first elected in 1997.
He has served as deputy premier since December.
(Editing by Paul Simao, Jeffrey Hodgson and Diane Craft)