Hello Chestermere-Strathmore readers.
I have written to many of you regarding some of the concerns you have, and I am so grateful every day to respond to you. Some of the questions being fielded at the office are really important, so I felt it was crucial to share some of the responses we are sharing with our constituents as I believe many of you may have some of the same concerns and questions.
I wanted to chat about the opposition’s private member’s bill on coal, which is more of the same political theatre we’ve grown accustomed to from this opposition. It’s confusing and disappointing that the opposition is somehow now against coal mining in the province when they were highly supportive of it during their time in government. The former energy minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd even supported coal development and bypassed the 1976 Coal Policy to kick-start the Ram River coal project.
Alberta’s government has appointed an independent Coal Policy Committee to lead a wide-ranging and comprehensive public engagement to form the province’s long-term approach to coal development. This includes working directly with Indigenous leaders and communities to ensure their perspectives are heard and considered.
It was troubling to hear Rachel Notley recently admit that she didn’t consult or engage with Chief Stanley Grier of the Piikani First Nation on Bill 214. The Piikani Nation, which has been stewarding the land on the Eastern Slopes for a thousand years, supports the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, which would be cancelled under Bill 214. With a bill like this, which proposes major policy changes, all voices need to be considered, not just the ones that agree with the opposition.
Alberta’s government is absolutely committed to protecting the majestic Eastern Slopes and the surrounding natural environment. Albertans have clearly told us that they want a say in how the province manages coal development – and that’s why we’re embarking on widespread engagement before taking further action.
I want to assure you that input from Albertans like yourself will be essential to developing a policy that strikes the right balance between protecting the areas we cherish and the need for economic opportunity. For more information about the coal policy engagement, please visit https://www.alberta.ca/coal-policy-engagement.aspx.
I’d also like to share some information with you about Bill 64 and public land camping passes in Alberta. I know that we are in very trying times right now, and I am very grateful to answer questions about this legislation. As part of our commitment to protect the environment, you may remember that in our mandate, especially in areas where random camping is available, we had put forward a 13-point plan to protect the environment. We released this promise on March 19, 2019, so we would be fully transparent with Albertans. We know protecting these beautiful spaces is as much a priority for you as it is for those who have been elected, so we have fulfilled that commitment.
With respect to trails, it is imperative that we prevent damage to our beautiful outdoors by hiring additional enforcement officers. The fee is $30 annually for Off-Highway Vehicles and random camping trailers. All of the fees will be invested back into the Eastern Slopes to protect and preserve the landscape. This will be done through a “dedicated revenue initiative.” That means the initiative must be linked to the program for which the revenue is being charged. This is audited annually so that the dollars from the revenue of the fees are reinvested into the intended programs. I hope this provides the needed clarity, and as always, we appreciate you reaching out. I believe we are aligned in the protection and preservation of our outdoor spaces so that they are there to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Finally, I would like to say that I hope that many of you are responding to our draft curriculum with your thoughts and suggestions. I know there are many of you with concerns, and I am profoundly grateful for those of you who have reached out to me with ideas and substantive discussions on what is working and what your concerns are. This is a DRAFT curriculum, and we have put it out to the public for feedback.
Thank you again for the opportunity to have had some great discussions, and I look forward to hearing from you.