Over the next month, we’ll be in 21 communities across Alberta talking about the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan. The purpose of this first round of consultations is to hear from people who live and work in the region about their vision for the area and their thoughts on the draft Terms of Reference for the plan. You can see the summaries for all communities here.
Last Thursday, we wrapped up the first week of community North Saskatchewan regional planning sessions with a great conversation in Fort Saskatchewan. 19 Albertans came out, including representatives from the Fort Air Partnership, the City of Fort Saskatchewan, the town of Bruderheim, Northeast Capital Industrial Association, the Fort Saskatchewan Snow Angels, MEG Energy, Agrium, Dow Canada, and members of the public. They shared diverse views about recreation, public land, air and water quality monitoring, and industrial growth.
Here’s what we heard:
VISION AND OUTCOMES
- Vision needs to be more forward-thinking – it’s not about where we are, but where we should end up
- The last paragraph of the vision should be the opening paragraph
- The first sentence of the vision is too focused on the economy
- Focus of the vision should be “managed” and “sustainable” growth, not just growth
- Concerns about the impact of regional planning on local autonomy
- Need clarification on certain terms – “key economic sectors”, “shared stewardship”
- Vision needs to clarify the baseline for sustaining our ecosystems
- Agriculture needs to be discussed under ‘healthy ecosystems’
- Vision statement suggests Industrial Heartland is part of Edmonton – it’s not
- Need more focus on education, social factors
- Given the volume of industrial activity in the heartland – including construction of new pipelines – we need to consider new transportation corridors
- Need better coordination of infrastructure
- Industrial growth results in loss of quality agricultural land – need to balance and minimize this
- Lack of regulatory certainty and efficiency hurts business investment in region
- Need framework for rail issues: capacity, cost, reliability & efficiency must be considered and are key to successfully expanding market access
- Need more support for family farms
- Forestry has benefits for forest management – need to recognize these
- More attention needed to local and regional tourism development
HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND ENVIRONMENT
- It’s unfair to single out industry’s environmental footprint – municipalities and agriculture also have large footprints
- Sub-regional plans are needed – is there a list of plans under consideration by the government?
- We should set up a program for replacement of wildlife habitat, similar to wetlands program
- Plan will also be impacted by federal environmental policies – are we examining those?
- Tax on emissions is a positive thing – will drive industry change
- One size does not fit all when it comes to environmental management frameworks – must take into account differences between areas
- River valley’s wildlife and biodiversity should be protected
Thoughts on water and air:
- Government needs to provide more support for air partnerships. Unfair distribution of resources to airshed organizations.
- Support for WPACs, but clarity of roles and funding needed
- Different airsheds have different needs and should have appropriate air quality standards
- Province needs to support municipalities to help them address water quality issues
- Management of North Saskatchewan river should be broadened to address surrounding ecosystems
- Support for collaborative airshed management approach – but concern about too much centralized decision making
- Provincial leadership needed on air and water non-point source management
Thoughts on public land:
- Need sustainable funding for operation & management of conservation areas
- Province should provide resources to support reclamation of municipally owned land
- Need more facilities for ATV use and camping across the region. Designated areas for ATV use can help minimize conflict with landowners.
- Policies needed to ensure the river valley remains a community asset
- Need for top-of-bank setbacks to reserve land for trails, parks
- Concern from recreationalists about new conservation areas restricting access to trails & public land
PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION
- Wording change suggested – should be “healthy” communities, not “people-friendly” communities
- The proposal is missing several historic sites, including Fort Edmonton and Red Coat Landing
- Need inventory of historic assets, along with support & tourism promotion
- More coordination is needed between different historic and cultural organizations
- Opportunity here for the province to bring First Nations and municipalities together – there’s an onus on the government to do that
- Stop developing residential areas near water bodies – the risk of flooding is too great
- North Saskatchewan river should be designated as a historic river
- How do we define community ‘wants’ versus ‘needs’?
Thoughts on outdoor recreation:
- What is the role of the private sector in developing opportunities for recreation?
- Plan seems to have concluded that there is a shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities – how did we come to that conclusion?
- Need for provincial trail network. Right now, trails are mostly built and maintained by local club and groups – they need more government support.
- ATV use and random camping are both growing – how do we accommodate this growth?
- Concern that an irresponsible minority of recreationalists are tarnishing the reputation of all & unduly influencing the development of the plan