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EDITORIAL: Scrapping the Coal Policy a betrayal of Albertan values

The United Conservative Party politicians in power in Alberta is not as clever as they think they are.

The United Conservative Party politicians in power in Alberta are not as clever as they think they are. 

They think being elected means ordinary Albertans will either go along with whatever they do, and if they don't, they can easily be painted as being on the side of the opposition NDP and dismissed. 

In 2020, a government announcement lauded that a 1970s policy that banned open-pit coal mining in the environmentally sensitive eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies was being repealed. 

The government claimed that by repealing this policy they were modernizing the situation. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

What they were actually doing was driving aggressively forward with a plan to expand coal mining in these previously protected areas, regardless of what Albertans of the past and in the present think.

The first clue that the UCP did not care for the opinions of citizens on this issue is that there was zero public consultation on this major policy shift. When Peter Lougheed implemented the policy originally, it was after several years of consultations. 

Rewind a couple years and you will find that this government cancelled plans to establish a new provincial park for the Bighorn area because there was a lack of public consultation by the NDP.  

This is the kind of flip flop that Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon seem to think Albertans won't pick up on. Sadly for them, this do as we say and not as we do approach to governance won't get them very far. 

This week, in light of public push back against the opening of what was category two lands in the Coal Policy to open-pit mining, the government announced that 11 new leases were being cancelled and was pausing any new leases.

The good news is that the voices of Albertans who oppose the cancellation of Coal Policy are being heard. It means the government is listening, but it does not go far enough.

The only solution to this issue is to put the Coal Policy back into effect and to cancel every single coal lease in the category two lands. If that means that the government is forced to compensate these coal companies, then so be it.

Because the cost of changing the paperwork on this environmental disaster in the making will be a lot less than the political price the UCP will eventually pay by staying the course on this ill advised venture.

The jobs and economic gain of these proposed open-pit coal mines does not compare to the the value Albertans have for keeping these areas protected and in their natural state. 

At the beginning of January, Kenney said his government would have to work hard to gain back the trust of the people of this province, after he apologized for the poor judgment shown by members of his caucus.

This is his chance to do just that. 

This policy change and the environmental implications of opening up these protected areas to open-pit coal mining was not part of Kenney's election platform.

All Albertans, including those directly affected like ranchers in the area and First Nations, were not consulted and this is a betrayal of the public trust and the values we have as a province.