Much of today's column in Viewpoint (Kill Bill Vol. 29) is about reading between the lies, er, lines. This government, like most governments, are masters at communication and spin. The Tories, like most majorities, want to implement their agenda as quickly and quietly as possible. It's my job to look behind the scenes and try to figure out what's going on despite what the politicians say.
It's a risky business, of course, because you don't know for sure. This time, though, I got it right -- the spectre of unsustainable levels of development in our parks and protected areas is on the government's agenda, and it's as dangerous as I had surmised.
Lloyd Snelgrove, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, said that although areas that are "ecologically too sensitive to touch" will be "left alone," Alberta now has "tremendous pressure to provide more camping stalls." (Pressure from whom, campers or private campground operators, he does not say.)
Apparently, Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Len Mitzel was even more brazen (or is it honest?). He said that new legislation would allow for more private development within the existing boundaries of provincial parks. "It all goes under the Alberta Heritage Act and would fall under one title ... and it is being done to encourage private development," said Mitzel. "For Dinosaur Park, for instance, it would allow for condos, service stations, and would add to the economic development of the region," he added.
Woops. Cat's out of the bag now.
Snelgrove also said that "you have to have campsites; you can have parks like Vermilion where we have an absolutely excellent campground and the activities that go on in that park like the cross-country skiing and the walking trails. People like the Sierra Club want to kick everybody out and that isn't going to happen," said Snelgrove.
Here's the problem, Mr. Snelgrove. For one, the Sierra Club, unlike a corporation, is not legally a "person," and second, as far as I can tell, it doesn't propose to kick everyone out.
What the Sierra Club and the thousands of Albertans who support it (and other environmental organizations) are acutely aware of, however, is that you can't turn 88 per cent of the landbase into farms and ranches and cities and towns and roads and clearcuts and mines and oil and gas fields, and then turn the other 12 per cent into campgrounds and off-highway vehicle trails and golf courses and ski hills and service stations and condos, and still have clean water (to drink, to swim), abundant wildlife (to watch, to hunt, to fish), and the natural refuges necessary to provide solace from the insane pace of the Alberta Advantage.
It's akin to suicide. Have you read The Lorax, Mr. Snelgrove? It's a kid's book, and fiction, but it paints a prescient (if scary) picture of Alberta's future. It's worth a look.
We are already in the early throes of climate change, and scientists (if you're inclined to believe them) maintain that we need to protect from the ravages of our industriousness between 17 and 50 per cent of the landscape. The Alberta government (which is to say, the Tories) have left that job largely undone. The lion's share of our protected areas are national parks managed by the feds, but they, too, see far too much development already. And some of the most important parts of Alberta -- namely the foothills and the prairies -- suffer from far too little protection. We need more, a lot more, and don't let the Ady's and the Snelgrove's and the Mitzel's tell you any different.
Old adages right true: You can't have your cake and eat it too. In Alberta, we're eating ours faster than the Big Baker in the Sky can make more.
It's time to put down our forks, take a deep breath, and reach for big helpings of Humility, Integrity and Reason.
God help our children if we choose to keep on eating.