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Canmore's Van Tighem going for NDP nomination in Livingstone-Macleod

"Water security is vital to First Nations, farms, ranches and communities not only in Livingstone-Macleod but all across the province."
20200922 Conservation Award 0002
Kevin Van Tighem was awarded the 2020 Canadian Wildlife Federation Robert Bateman Award to recognize an individual or group who has furthered the awareness of and/or appreciation for Canada's wildlife and habitats through artistic expression. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – The high profile former superintendent of Banff National Park, Kevin Van Tighem, is seeking nomination as an NDP candidate in the Livingstone-Macleod constituency to run in the next provincial election.

Members of the Alberta New Democratic Party in that constituency will choose their candidate at the Nov. 23 nomination meeting in High River. So far, Canmore’s Van Tighem is the only contender. If nominated, he will take on the current United Conservative Party MLA for the area, Roger Reid, in next spring’s election.

A vocal conservationist, Van Tighem said he eventually decided to step up because of the UCP’s secret decision to sell coal mining rights along the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies to foreign companies, rather than to protect the groundwater and streams.

“Water security is vital to First Nations, farms, ranches and communities not only in Livingstone-Macleod but all across the province,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“The UCP didn’t even have the integrity to mention their coal plans during the election campaign.”

Van Tighem had a 34-year career with Parks Canada before retiring from his final position as Banff National Park superintendent in 2011. These days, he continues to be active in many issues affecting Alberta’s headwaters and prairie conservation.

A prolific writer, some of Van Tighem’s many published books include Bears Without Fear, The Homeward WolfOur Place: Changing the Nature of Alberta and Heart Waters: Sources of the Bow River.

He has also been awarded the prestigious Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Robert Bateman Award for Conservation for his fiction and non-fiction writing about wildlife and nature.

Van Tighem now splits his time between homes in Canmore and the Oldman River area. Under the Alberta Elections Act, candidates are not required to reside full-time in the riding they represent.

In Van Tighem’s mind, it is well past time for change.

He said the UCP has had repeated cabinet scandals while wasting billions of dollars of Albertans’ money on “pet projects, pointless public inquiries, and a pipeline that didn’t get built.”

“Meantime they dismissed the honest concerns of ordinary Albertans as ‘NDP speaking points’, picked fights with doctors and nurses during a pandemic, tried to foist a plagiarized and unusable school curriculum on our kids, and drove up the cost of living by raising fees on almost everything,” he said.

“Struggling families now even have to pay to picnic in the Kananaskis.”

Van Tighem is no stranger to the NDP.

During the 2019 election campaign, he volunteered for the Livingstone-Macleod NDP candidate Cam Gardner as well as for then-Banff-Kananaskis MLA Cam Westhead, who was seeking re-election for the NDP. Westhead lost to UCP candidate Miranda Rosin, this region’s current MLA.

Van Tighten said that election went from an NDP government to one that has taken an even more recent worse turn with their choice of leader Danielle Smith.

“They’ve become a crypto-separatist party likely to tear our future apart,” he said.

When the NDP formed the government back in 2015, Van Tighem said they kept even their hardest promises, such as protecting the Castle wilderness areas from industry while also keeping those new parks open for cattle-grazing and hunting.

“But instead of barging ahead with preconceived ideas, they listened carefully and respectfully to those of us with knowledge and concerns about the area,” he said, noting he served on advisory groups for management plans for those parks as well as on public advisory committees for land use and recreation plans for the Livingstone-Porcupine Hills sub-region.

“The government consulted thoroughly, made hard but principled decisions, and stood up to the inevitable abuse orchestrated by extremists and anger merchants.”