As a brand new cabinet and government takes office this week in Edmonton, and Premier Jason Kenney along with his United Conservative Party prepare to get to work, we thought we would give the new ministers a primer on what they should be focused on in this corner of the province.
The Bow Valley may be just one part of one riding, but it is a revenue generator when it comes to tourism in Alberta and the UCP’s platform in the 2019 election set ambitious goals to double spending by visitors to $20 billion by 2030.
That’s twice the number of tourists travelling to Alberta and does it make sense to assume that will affect places like Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis? It absolutely does.
The Rocky Mountain destinations represent 30 per cent of all tourism spending currently in the province to the tune of $3 billion a year. But when it comes to providing services and infrastructure to support tourism, it is left to local municipalities and property taxpayers to foot the bill.
While the UCP set ambitious targets, the platform failed to recognize the industry is at a competitive disadvantage when compared to destinations like resort municipalities in B.C.
Those destinations receive a portion of hotel tax revenues each year to support tourism-based programs and services, as well as infrastructure projects that are needed for visitation.
Newly appointed Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir should be putting this issue at the top of her agenda. It is also an issue that will be brought to the new Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.
Madu may be the 10th minister on this portfolio in as many years that will hear from the mayors of Canmore, Banff and Jasper that there are specific industry related supports needed if tourism is going to double in the next decade.
Also on the desk of Madu is going to be the undermining regulations of the Municipal Government Act. An obscure issue, it is one that affects future development in Canmore.
In the 90s, the province agreed to cover the liability related to development on undermined lands (i.e. Three Sisters Mountain Village). But when a sinkhole opened up near Dyrgas Gate several years ago on municipal land the province revealed that guarantee, now decades old, only applied to private lands. This is not what was promised at the time.
So if TSMV is going to continue developing and the municipality is expected to take on public lands that are undermined as a result, we as taxpayers will assume liability into the future unless the regulation in the MGA is changed.
Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon will also have a lot of work to do in this riding – with non-existent vacancy rates and the highest cost of living in the province – this portfolio is important to the valley.
Not to mention the anticipated phase two of the Bow River Senior’s Lodge in Canmore – is this project at risk of being cancelled as a result of the UCP’s fiscal promises during the election?
Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange will definitely have her work cut out for her on this portfolio. Our public school board struggles underneath the complex monstrosity that is education funding in this province – and has long pushed for reform.
Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon is sure to spend a lot of his time getting up to speed on the Bow Valley. From local parks and protected areas, to protected species management – a lot of this portfolio has a focus in this very region.
At the very least, we hope Nixon immediately confirms his government’s commitment to the Bow Valley Human Wildlife Coexistence task force recommendations adopted by local governments and the province.
That process and the resulting efforts are critical to addressing issues of human wildlife conflict locally and must continue into the future.