Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

April 14, 2021
By: admin

Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

Published [post_published]
CPAWS Northern Alberta

While the Government of Alberta’s Coal Policy Engagement Survey is only the first step in consultation on coal in Alberta, CPAWS believes it really missed the mark on addressing the important questions related to coal development in our Rocky Mountains. 

Despite the shortcomings of this survey, we are encouraging all Albertans to participate and not just answer the questions that were asked, but also the ones we wish we were asked. While the survey leaves little room for reframing this conversation, there are a few opportunities and things to keep in mind when filling out the survey that will help. 

Read on to hear our main critiques of the survey and our tips for how to have your voice heard! 

Survey Tries to Divide Rather Than Unite Albertans

The first question of the survey asks how “impacted” you are by coal development. This is a not-so-subtle attempt to divide Albertans by who has the most to lose or gain from coal development, rather than having a conversation on the overall impact and risks to the public good. 

Coal development isn’t just a me versus you” or “us versus them” issue. It’s about us as a province and the benefits the Rocky Mountain landscape provides: water that our communities and agriculture industry rely on; places to fish, hike, hunt or enjoy a Sunday drive; and our identity and reputation as a province. Whether you live and work in the Eastern Slopes, drink the water far downstream, or want a more diverse and sustainable future for the province, potential new coal developments collectively affect us all.  

The bulk of the survey then focuses on coal development and what you know about the Coal Policy, uses of coal, and regulation of the industry. These questions focus on how to develop coal rather than what people value about the landscape and if or where coal is appropriate at all. The questions aim to make people feel like only policy experts have a stake in the future of our mountainsThey have a slightly condescending undertone of “if you were only better informed you would see why coal makes sense.” 

You shouldn’t have to be quizzed before you can speak out about what’s important to you. Regardless of how much technical knowledge you have on the issue, all Albertans who live, work, and play on this landscape care about how coal may impact the Eastern SlopesWhat’s important is what you do know – how important water is, how much you love the Rockies, how the future of this landscape is essential for future generations. All these voices matter.  

Check out the next section to see our suggestions on how you can have your voice heard in this survey. 

The people who live, work and play in Alberta's Rockies deserve to have their voices heard on whether new coal developments are appropriate here.
The people who live, work and play in Alberta’s Rockies deserve to have their voices heard on whether new coal developments are appropriate here.

What You Can Do to Change the Conversation

After you have gotten through the first few pages of the survey, which do not ask for any feedback or opinions, there are a few places in the survey that allow you to reframe the conversation. We have highlighted these question-by-question below:

"Are there areas in the province that should not be appropriate for coal exploration and development?”

 If you answer “Yes,” the survey opens a new box asking you to describe where coal exploration and development are not appropriate. In this box you can outline areas you think should be off limits such as stating your opposition to any new coal mines on the entire Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. 

Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

“As the committee engages with Albertans, what topics do you consider to be the most important when discussing Alberta's coal policy?”

In this question, prioritizing “If and where coal development takes place in Alberta” and “Environmental impacts of coal development” helps move the conversation away from regulatory approvals. 

Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

The next question also allows you to enter what is missing – like the need for a new comprehensive land-use planning process.

Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

“What aspects of the 1976 Coal Policy and regulation of coal exploration and development do you want to become more familiar with before participating in the engagement?”

For this question, entering “Other” gives you the opportunity to ask how any new policy addressing coal fits in with the land use planning process, species at risk habitat, water conservation, recreation, treaty rights or other landscape values that are important to you. 

Flipping the Script on Coal: Our Tips on How to Navigate the Alberta Government’s New Coal Policy Survey

What’s Next?

As Albertans, we also need to ensure that this really is only the first step in a much bigger process. The government has stated that after this survey, the committee will independently continue to move consultation forward and make recommendations to government on a new Coal Policy. 

The survey suggests that Albertans will be able to communicate with the committee during this process, and CPAWS will make sure to share and promote ways to contact the committee as they become available. Let’s make sure the government and committee know that this survey is not going to placate us and we will continue to be engaged on this important issue. 

 

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