The issue of public access to public lands seems to be spreading to every corner of the land, after County of Wetaskiwin council dealt with a Bighorn Backcountry request at their regular council meeting Jan. 8.
County CAO Rod Hawken presented councilors with a letter from Brazeau County, requesting support in opposing the way the provincial government is handling changes to the Bighorn back country area along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
“On January 7th, 2019 a request was received from Reeve Bart Guyon of Brazeau County requesting the County of Wetaskiwin to support their opposition of the Provincial Governments quest to implement the Bighorn Proposal due to the Provincial level’s lack of appropriately conducting proper consultation sessions,” stated Hawken.
“Brazeau County Council is requesting the Provincial Government to extend the consultation and afford residents proper face to face consultation and dialogue on this important matter.”
Guyon’s letter read, “This letter is to formally request Wetaskiwin County’s support of Brazeau County Council’s position that the provincial government is not appropriately consulting on the Bighorn Proposal. Brazeau County Council is requesting the provincial government extend the consultation and afford residents proper face-to-face consultation and dialogue on this important matter. This past weekend, in response to the cancellation of the Public Input Sessions in Drayton Valley, Edmonton, Red Deer and Sundre, Brazeau County Council issued the following statement: “On behalf of Brazeau County Council I wish to express our extreme disappointment in Minister Phillips’s statement and her Ministry’s decision to cancel the Public Input Sessions scheduled. Brazeau County has taken great pride in the equal balance of stewardship and economic development of our lands including those proposed to fall within the Bighorn Country Public Land Use Zone proposal. While Brazeau County Council maintains our position that we wish to be removed from the proposal, we are more deeply saddened to be proven correct in so much as this government has not carried out significant nor effective public consultation; the amount of material released in various locations by the dual ministries of Environment and Parks and Tourism, has led to onerous and time consuming research that is discourteous to peoples times and lives. Cancellation of the public input session, specifically the one for Drayton Valley scheduled for January 7th is further entrenching our Council’s opinion that the Ministry of Parks is unwilling to listen to face to face local opposition or suggestions for the Bighorn Country Proposal.” Brazeau County Council is seeking the support of Wetaskiwin County of our position and add your voice to our appeal to the Provincial Government. As you share a border with the two affected Counties, I know this topic is of great interest and importance to you as well.”
Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers stated she attend a rally in Drayton Valley on Jan. 7 that included lots of people from the entire region. She stated that one Sunchild First Nation councilor spoke at the event and said the First Nation had not been consulted on proposed changes to access.
She noted UCP MLA Jason Nixon was also there and that the rally was peaceful. Rooyakkers said she wasn’t trying to comment either way on the issue but that at the rally many people felt that they hadn’t been properly consulted by the government on the proposed changes.
“They’re saying it’s for the future,” said Rooyakkers. “Then let’s get it right.”
The NDP government over the past few weeks has been under intense criticism for cancelling certain consultation meetings, claiming some people had been threatened or intimidated.
Councilor Lyle Seely said he also wanted more information from the government, as he wasn’t sure the government has all the answers or if perhaps the government has the answers and doesn’t want to give them. “You need to have these answers for people,” said Seely.
Councilors unanimously agreed to send a letter of support for Brazeau County.