Alberta's Minister of Energy Ron Liepert Talks Oil Sands
Written by John Shimkus
Oil sands are a controversial topic in Canada. Environmental concerns over their exploitation have exacerbated government divides, but oil sands may hold the greatest promisOil, sands, Ron Liepert, Minister of Energy, Alberta, Canada, U.S., economic, security, energy, economy, environment, tar, reservese in securing Canada’s economic security, as well as the energy security of the country’s neighbor to the south: the United States. Alberta, Canada’s Minister of Energy Ron Liepert talks oil sands with Energy Digital in an exclusive interview.
Minister Liepert notes the abundance of oil available in Alberta’s oil sands. “Alberta sits on 170 billion barrels of proven reserves in the oil sands. This makes Canada one of the top three producers in the world [and] this figure is only 10 per cent of the existing oil sands deposits. The problem with the other 90 per cent is that technology has not yet developed to the point where it is economic, but at some point in the future it will be.”
In regard to environmental concerns surrounding oil sands production, Minister Liepert states, “We have been a leader in terms of initiatives around the environment. We have made significant advancement in tailings management. Tailings are associated only with the mining operations, which is less than 50 per cent of the oil sands production now and continues to decline as a percentage of production.”
He continues, “We have a 15 dollar per ton carbon tax, and most of the large operations in the oil sands fall under that. The tax goes into a clean energy fund. Alberta only has a population of 3.5 million people, but has invested $2 billion—probably the largest of any jurisdiction in the world—into carbon capture and storage.”
When asked about the oil sands’ role in Canada’s energy security, Minister Liepert responds, “I think we need to look at energy security for the continent. Canada doesn’t have an issue around energy security, but we can be a big factor in solving U.S. energy security. In order to do that we need the capacity to move the product into Gulf Coast refineries and we’ve got the Keystone Pipeline application before the U.S. right now.”
Ron Liepert is a Progressive Conservative party member who was sworn in as Minster of Energy for Alberta, Canada in January 2010. He previously served as Minister of Health and Wellness.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.