UPDATE 1-Energy industry keeps wary eye on Alberta political turmoil

Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:18pm EDT
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(Recasts with comment from energy executives, political analyst)

By Nia Williams and Scott Haggett

CALGARY, Alberta, March 20 (Reuters) - 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 Saudi Arabia.

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 ground.

The Progressive Conservatives are one of North America's most successful political dynasties, having run Alberta for more than four decades.   Continued...