About 150 demonstrators came out Sunday to Galt Gardens to make their voices heard over what they called the provincial government’s attempts to exclude everyday Albertans from the backcountry recreational opportunities in favour of out-of-province commercial interests.
Those present represented off-road vehicle users, hunters and backcountry camping enthusiasts who all felt the government’s recent efforts to create parks in the Castle, Bighorn and Livingstone-Porcupine areas was a disenfranchisement of their way of life and a direct challenge to their freedom to recreate on publically owned common lands.
“We need to work together to find an agreeable, mutually-beneficial management plan for all Albertans,” said Kurtis Bachman of the Southern Alberta Bowhunters Association, one of the featured speakers at the rally. “This is our land to use, and our land to protect, and our land to enjoy. We are not against well-founded recreational management plans; what we are against is a lack of public involvement and a complete removal of the ability to utilize these lands in a respectful manner of our choosing.”
Porcupine Hills improvements coming
New camping areas, bridges and trails are planned for the Livingstone-Porcupine Hills area of southern Alberta.
Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips says about $5 million will be spent to provide bridges, rebuild trails and protect fish habitat over the next four years.
Future projects will also include new camping facilities, signage and improvement to the Atlas, McGillivray, Window Mountain, Beaver Creek and Trout Creek staging areas for year-round recreation.
And new bridges will be built at damaged stream crossings to accommodate off-road vehicles, Phillips said Friday.
Albertans are meanwhile invited to offer feedback on her department’s draft “land footprint and recreation management” plans before April 26, she added.
“This is responding to what we’ve been hearing.”
Fix for rural ambulance woes
Many problems associated with rural ambulance service in Alberta could be fixed with a few simple changes, says a southern Alberta MLA who has been speaking out on the issue for years.
During Question Period at the Alberta Legislature last Wednesday, UCP MLA for Livingstone-Macleod Pat Stier pressed Health Minister Sarah Hoffman in regards to ongoing rural ambulance coverage.
He identified several key issues he feels the government needs to address.
“Enormous delays for paramedics in emergency departments is number one,” he said. “Plus non-emergency transfers, flexing of units into large cities and faulty centralized dispatch all must be remedied immediately.”
Hoffman replied the government has plans to increase EMS funding by $23 million, which is headed for front-line services.
“AHS is developing their plan — should our budget be approved — and then we will be able to share that publicly,” she said.
Alberta attractive for investors
Collaboration between Chamber of Commerce organizations and Alberta officials has resulted in a series of economic growth initiatives for local businesses.
And coupled with the nation’s second-lowest tax on small business, Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous told a Lethbridge audience Alberta is becoming increasingly attractive for investors.
Speaking at a Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce meeting Friday, Bilous cited the NDP government’s Investment Tax Credit with leveraging $100 million worth of investment coming from $30 million in government funds.
Other initiatives for small business have paid similar dividends, he said.
“It was business leaders like you who helped us create them,” Bilous said.
Chamber representatives said, “This is what we need to be successful.”
Alberta’s government is focused on diversifying the economy, the minister said, and it’s had a strong response to initiatives aimed at enlarging the province’s petro-chemical industry. Investors are proposing projects worth $6 billion — and the government has received another 16 bids.