What we heard: Killam’s ideas for protecting rural communities and small businesses in the North Saskatchewan region

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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 find the session information for your community here and see the summaries for all communities here.

13 Albertans came out in Killam on Wednesday to share hopes and concerns for the future of the North Saskatchewan region. Attendees included representatives from the Towns of Sedgewick and Killam, ATCO, Ducks Unlimited, Flagstaff County, and the Battle River Watershed Alliance.

We heard lots of interesting feedback about the rural experience in the region – and how the plan can help give these communities the resources they need to thrive in the future.

Here’s what we heard.

VISION AND OUTCOMES:

  • There are 11 major watersheds in Alberta and only seven regions – what happened to the other four?
  • Too much focus on economy – not enough focus on environment and community outcomes. Need a balance between all three categories.
  • Need a local regional sub-plan based on Battle River Watershed
  • Skepticism about Government of Alberta’s commitment to representing small municipalities and counties
  • Want to see engagement and opportunities for feedback throughout all levels of the planning process
  • Concern about family farms dwindling and lack of government support for small farmers
  • Support for the NSRP consultation process, but some lack of trust that the government will consider community input in the development of the plan
  • “Great ideas, as long as you can implement and enforce them”

HEALTHY ECONOMY

  • Regulations favour big agri-business, as it’s easier for them to meet regulations – not so easy for small producers
  • No mention of local economic development – focus is on provincial growth in the global economy
  • Large farms do not tend to support local communities or have local input
  • Support for increased tourism – but regional cooperation needed to make tourism work in the Eastern part of the region
  • Foreign workers make up a significant part of the labour force and they are not as interested in local development – need local investment in industry
  • Missing a plan for economic turnover for communities where industries have ‘life expectancies’
  • Effects of agriculture: crop spraying is good for crops but bad for the environment

HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND THE ENVIRONMENT  

  • Broaden the criteria for the groups that are allowed to restore wetlands.
  • Airsheds should be collaborative, efficient and local.
  • Ensuring that groundwater recharge areas are protected from development and that existing development near these areas are monitored in case they have an impact on groundwater quality
  • Need discussion about inter-basin water transfers: should they happen? To what degree?
  • Environmentally significant areas need to be protected and emphasized in in the plan (e.g. Battle River headwaters)

PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION

  • Per capita funding system for health care, education, and recreation punishes rural areas, rewards areas with higher populations
  • Do communities that aren’t experiencing population growth still get government support?
  • Government should support volunteer groups developing recreation facilities and opportunities
  • Recreation opportunities should be diversified – but we should also charging the fees to support them
  • Some participants do not want to see the development of wi-fi in parks
  • There is an urban-rural disconnect where the urban regions (e.g. the Capital Region) monopolize the plan

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