Albertans love parks and want more, but a Private Member’s Bill would prevent new parks
December 1, 2023
On November 23, 2023, the Private Member’s Bill 204, the Municipal Government (National Urban Parks) Amendment Act, 2023 was given First Reading in the Alberta Legislature. The intent of the Bill is to prevent a municipality from entering into any agreement to develop a National Urban Park, except under, still unspecified circumstances which would be established later by Cabinet.
The Bill’s sponsor, MLA Lunty, stated that the purpose of the Bill is to “ensure that no national urban park can be created in Albertans’ backyard without their input”. We are surprised and dismayed by this action as the province has had representation at Edmonton’s National Urban Park Partners table since its initiation. As well, the designation of a National Urban Park involves multiple rounds of public consultation, making it not possible for a National Urban Park to be created in Alberta without the input of Albertans. Disturbingly, the effect of this Bill could be preventing the creation of a National Urban Park for the benefit of Albertans, without their input.
Why now are roadblocks being placed to this open public process? Regrettably, this government has a terrible track record on parks, eroding the trust of Albertans in 2020 when it tried to remove protections from 173 parks and recreation areas. If they truly want Albertans to have a say on whether a National Urban Park should become reality in Alberta, why not support the process to hear the views of Albertans?
“Albertans have made it abundantly clear that they love parks and want to see more, not fewer, parks.”, said Kecia Kerr, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Northern Alberta’s Executive Director, “In 2020, they spoke up by the tens of thousands against the Government of Alberta’s plan to remove parks through the CPAWS and Alberta Environmental Network’s Defend Alberta Parks campaign. In 2022 polling showed that 78% of Albertans support the creation of more parks to protect habitat for wildlife. If this Bill is passed, it would show that the Government is not acting in line with the interests of Albertans.”
“It is concerning that the Government of Alberta would let its battles with the federal government block municipalities from participating in an initiative simply focused on enabling Albertans greater local access to protected nature areas.” said Linda Duncan, speaking on behalf of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society.
“A River Valley National Urban Park has great potential to benefit nature, including people. Why is the Provincial Government obstructing this project rather than collaborating to help ensure the ecological integrity of the river valley for the future?” said Kristine Kowalchuk from the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition (ERVCC).
- The City of Edmonton, Parks Canada, and Indigenous Partners (Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, and the Otipemisiwak Métis Government (formerly the Métis Nation of Alberta) have been in discussions to explore a possible National Urban Park in the Greater Edmonton region, with the province at that table as an observer.
- The City has made it clear that the land would remain in municipal hands (no land ownership transfer to the federal government), and that the governance structure for the park would include the City of Edmonton.
- Access to a National Urban Park would be free for all and the designation could result in federal funding for educational programs, infrastructure, or restoration activities.
- Pillars of the National Urban Park program are:
- Conserving nature
- Connecting people to nature
- Advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples
- The process for a potential National Urban Park in Edmonton has recently completed the pre-feasibility stage, pending approval from Parks Canada, and will now move to the planning phase. There will be numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on the project.
The quote from ERVCC was updated on December 14, 2023.