AER says 200 jobs cut as regulator completes major restructuring

Under growing political and financial pressure, the Alberta Energy Regulator has completed an internal restructuring, which has included cutting 200 jobs within the organization.

AER spokeswoman Cara Tobin said Thursday the layoffs were part of a reorganization within the energy regulator.

“It’s 200 people across the organization, across the province,” Tobin said in an interview. “That process is now complete.”

The AER is responsible for overseeing the safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of the province’s oil, gas and coal resources, but it has been under an intense spotlight in recent months.

In last October’s provincial budget, the Kenney government signalled the AER would reduce its administrative levy on the oil and gas industry by eight per cent for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.

The AER will collect about $233 million from the industry in the current budget year, down $19 million from the previous year. By 2022-23, the levy will fall to $206 million, representing an 18-per-cent cut from last year’s levels.

In January, interim CEO Gordon Lambert said the AER’s board and management team had developed a new structure to “help us become more effective, efficient and resilient.” The regulator’s new structure will focus on core functions, he said in a statement at the time.

Tobin said the AER, which had 1,160 full-time equivalent positions last fall, now has about 950 staff members. Layoffs began earlier this year, although the bulk of them occurred last week.

During last spring’s provincial election campaign, the UCP vowed to improve approval times for energy projects within the AER, and the government replaced the board of directors last fall with an interim board.

It also initiated a broader $500,000 review of the mandate and governance of the energy organization. Details of that process are expected to be released in the coming weeks, said Kavi Bal, spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

Former CEO Jim Ellis left the organization in November 2018.

Last year, several reports by Alberta’s auditor general, ethics commissioner and public interest commissioner criticized the organization and Ellis for establishing the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, a group designed to train international regulators.

Bal said the recruitment process is continuing for a permanent CEO and board of directors.

“There were a lot of things within the AER that weren’t operating right, and so during the (2019 election) campaign, the government committed to a full review, so it’s ongoing,” he said Thursday.

“It’s going to cut some red tape and make sure the AER is functioning. We need a single regulator that is efficient.”

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