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EDITORIAL: Province should consult before it gears up tourism goals

With two local representatives of the tourism sector on the provincial panel exploring the issue of red tape, we are curious where this is going to lead us, not just as Albertans, but as residents of an area that is swallowed whole by tourism each summer. The government has set its aim quite high for tourism. Currently the industry results in just under $10 billion in visitor spending a year. Premier Jason Kenney and his government wants to double that to the tune of $20 billion. 
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The provincial government’s efforts to reduce red tape for Albertans and businesses is a laudable goal, but before officials get too far ahead of themselves, there are some important things that should be kept in mind. 

First and foremost – the ends do not justify the means. 

It is great to make systems and processes easier to access and navigate, but if by doing so the government undoes justifiable means to make sure decisions are being made for the right reasons – all Albertans will end up losing in the end. 

Take environmental regulations and protections for example. The sum total of all ways we manage protected landscapes, for example, is because there are almost always multiple complex systems to be considered in their entirety for decisions to be made. 

Making it easier for businesses to operate is a laudible goal, but if it is at the expense of protecting wildlife and the environment, it should be thought through carefully first. 

So far, however, no initiatives are being proposed that reduce the essential requirements of doing business in protected areas. One change has been made, to the length of commercial leases that operate in provincial parks increased to 60 years recently. 

The UCP government claimed it was to align with other jurisdictions, however B.C. has a maximum lease of 30 years and Parks Canada is 42 years.

We cannot help question the motivations of this change since the reason given literally does not add up – that’s a pretty big spread to use as a justification for a change.

Recently, Minister of Service Alberta Nate Glubish reversed a decision by the Real Estate Council of Alberta to change signage requirements for Realtors across the province. It would have resulted in those in the real estate sector having to shell out approximately $50 million on new signs to meet these changed requirements. 

Font size and logo placement changes should not cost Alberta businesses $50 million and we applaud the minister for taking decisive action to reduce red tape in this particular instance.

The minister expressed frustration that a government agency would be so heavy handed with signage requirements. Perhaps he should try to hang a new sign for a business in the Bow Valley, where what things look like matters more than a streamlined easy to navigate process. 

With two local representatives of the tourism sector on the provincial panel exploring the issue of red tape, we are curious where this is going to lead us, not just as Albertans, but as residents of an area that is swallowed whole by tourism each summer.

The government has set its aim quite high for tourism. Currently the industry results in just under $10 billion in visitor spending a year. Premier Jason Kenney and his government wants to double that to the tune of $20 billion. 

So less red tape and more tourism seems to the outcome we can expect. While that may be an enticing proposition from a business perspective, this government would do well to consider its other obligations. Specifically, increased tourism at the expense of ecological integrity is a much harder sell for Albertans, especially in this region. 

Additionally, increased business and tourism at the expense of communities like Canmore and Banff will not succeed. Businesses need staff to operate, and the hotter the tourism market, the less available and affordable housing becomes.

Housing is arguably a provincial responsiblity, and yet other than funding seniors housing in the recent past, the government of Alberta has failed to show up and be a partner to support a strong economy locally for tourism.

Less red tape is great, unless there’s no businesses left to navigate government processes to begin with.



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