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.
Last week’s North Saskatchewan regional planning conversations wrapped up in Camrose, where there was great turnout and lots of interesting feedback. 32 Albertans came out to share their thoughts on the Terms of Reference for the plan, including representatives of Brazeau County, ATCO Power, Alberta Beef Producers, Fort Saskatchewan Naturalist Society, Paintearth County, City of Camrose, Camrose County, Alberta Wilderness Association, TAQA North, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), and Sun Media.
Here’s what we heard.
VISION AND OUTCOMES
- The three pillars (economy, environment, and communities) should be given equal weight – this is not captured in the vision
- Vision needs more focus needed on communities
- Economic growth should not always take precedence over protecting the environment
- Too focused on Edmonton and the Industrial Heartland – need to focus on areas outside those regions as well
- Government should encourage more Aboriginal participation in public sessions – both Aboriginal groups and the general public need to know what others are saying
- Vision focuses too much on North Saskatchewan River – more focus needed on Battle River
- Too much dependence on fossil fuel energy sector and not enough attention paid to the risks of dependency. Alternative energy has huge potential – we need a strategy for supporting research in this sector.
- Develop value-added energy in Alberta – especially if pipelines are not built
- Opportunities for tourism development are being lost
- Lack of diversity in farm ownership – large landholders and companies buy more land, driving up the price, preventing new people from entering agriculture and driving out smaller producers
HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
- Environment is a more important priority than economic development – “if you can’t breathe, it doesn’t matter if you have money”
- Municipalities and communities don’t have the resources to establish good monitoring – WPACs are essential for this. They need more resources from government.
- Need baseline data for air and water pollution in order to understand what’s happening
- Should be a review of existing water licences to make sure we’re allocating water efficiently
- Air quality monitoring should be extended beyond the contaminants listed in the Terms of Reference for the plan
- Landowners need better tools to deal with problem wildlife (like deer)
- Blue Rapids Recreation Area should be extended to Brazeau Dam
- Conservation organizations and initiatives exist but don’t have the resources to advertise – government should help with this
- Need reasonable reclamation standards – if standards can’t be achieved, they aren’t reasonable
- Need to plan for extreme weather impacts (like flooding)
PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION
- Consultation needed on a trail system for ATV users – this keeps vehicles off of private lands
- Need to mediate the interactions of different trail users – “multi-use trails do not work”
- Residents should lobby for more tax dollars to go to funding enforcement in these areas
- Too much focus on the Capital Region in the plan – what about the rest of the region?
- Capital Region Board is supposed to support regional cooperation – why does Edmonton have a veto power?
- Need to clarify surface versus sub-surface rights. At what point can landowners say no to activity on their land?
- Regional plans should support the growth of municipalities – not establish rules that restrict this growth
- Municipalities need quicker and easier ways to access crown land – mechanism needed for municipalities to expropriate crown land if negotiations with province fail
- New process for establishing road bans does not seem logical
- One attendee wants to know why Mennonites near La Crete are clearing public land