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EDITORIAL: Albertans deserve to know how Kananaskis Conservation pass money is being spent

The use of public money should always come with transparency on where it is coming from and how it is being spent.
March 31, 2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/www.lamontagneart.com.

The use of public money should always come with transparency on where it is coming from and how it is being spent.

In the case of the Kananaskis Conservation Pass, the United Conservative Party has been happy to show the money being spent in Kananaskis Country but stopped short of providing information on where the roughly $12 million from the pass is going.

The UCPs have had many opportunities to outline how each dollar from the pass is being spent, but have chosen not to reveal where it is shifted to in Kananaskis Country.

Though there was controversy surrounding the fee when it was announced, many Alberta residents have stated they are happy to pay a fee if all the money is returned to Kananaskis Country and how it is spent.

The province is estimating about $15 million will be collected in 2022, showing people are willing to pay to visit Kananaskis Country.

But the lack of transparency has left far too many questions unanswered and the UCP has been unwilling – or unable – to provide those answers.

In recent months, the UCP has happily organized and shown up for media conferences to dole out cash, but when it comes to showing their math, no answers have been provided.

Money has been committed to what serves as one of the most popular areas in the province with numerous provincial parks. With more than five million visitors a year for both 2020 and 2021, people have taken every opportunity to get to many spots.

The UCP has committed about $26 million for spending in Kananaskis Country. The bulk of it will go to the Canmore Nordic Centre, but there will also be six new conservation officers and an increase in regional transit beginning in 2024.

However, on two occasions the UCPs have stated the training and hiring for 20 new conservation officers came from the pass, but only six are being directed to Kananaskis. While there have been many chances to clarify, none has yet to come.

A further $994,000 will go towards the seasonal Grassi Lakes Roam transit route that is estimated to start in 2024.

Much needed infrastructure repairs at more than $4 million are also coming to the Grassi Lakes and Goat Creek day-use areas that will leave both popular spots closed for the 2022 season.

The Grassi Lakes bus has incredible promise in offering free transit for people to get to the Canmore Nordic Centre, Quarry Lake and Grassi Lakes to ease the level of congestion and provide affordable transit.

Anyone who’s driven through Highway 742 on the way to Grassi Lakes and Goat Creek day-use area will likely be thankful for the savings they’ll see in not having to get their vehicle realigned or shocks replaced after each trip over the pothole marked paths.

The work will also increase parking for those choosing to drive to do trails such as Ha Ling Trail, Grassi Lakes Trail, Goat Creek Trail and Riders of Rohan Mountain Bike Trail.

The infrastructure repairs will aid visitors, but as the conservation and environmental community has noted if it’s called a conservation pass what is it doing for conservation?

At this moment, not much – and it is something that needs to be addressed in future years.

In the latest provincial budget, Alberta Environment and Parks was earmarked $604 million, which is a jump of $105 million from 2021. However, Parks was only given $75 million after receiving $76 million in 2020 and $81 million in 2021.

Alberta Environment and Parks should have a higher standard and level of respect in providing information to the people providing the cash flow. Anything short is unacceptable and a failure of provincial leadership.

Albertans deserve to know where their money is being spent.