Auditor report reason to doubt province on SSRP
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 03:33 pm
We hope many Bow Valley residents, and even Albertans, are eagerly awaiting the release of the final South Saskatchewan Regional Plan from the provincial government soon. Yes, we know land use planning isn’t sexy, but like we’ve said before this regional plan is needed desperately to address multiple issues when it comes to how we use land in Alberta and particularly in the South Saskatchewan watershed.
However, recent news out of Edmonton gives us pause to question whether the grand land use planning scheme will actually achieve its fundamental goal to manage conflicting uses or even be able to measure outcomes set out in the plan.
The SSRP – one of several land use plans in the province under development– was released in a draft form last fall and open to feedback. Much was said about how little it did for land stewardship – this is a perfect document to achieve that objective in – flood mitigation and watershed protection – two very interconnected issues – and wildlife connectivity.
A recent report on the forest cover of the Eastern Slopes region of Alberta (see page 10) clearly shows that area is losing more trees and forest cover than industrial development in the oilsands and all for the sake of industry. The Eastern Slopes, however, is also critical habitat for multiple key species like grizzly bears, and wolverines.
There are protections afforded in the SSRP in the Eastern Slopes and the Castle, but only at high alpine elevations – an empty gesture meant to look good on paper and save this critical habitat for industrial pursuits like logging and resource extraction. One could argue it is nothing more than window dressing. And window dressing is something this government appears to be very good at.
Alberta’s auditor general Merwan Saher recently released a critical report on the Government of Alberta’s climate change strategy – saying six years after being introduced the government has failed to meet its targets, has not monitored its results and has yet to publish a single document on its outcomes.
Even an implementation plan drafted in 2012 “lacked the information necessary to monitor performance of actions and the government’s overall progress” Saher wrote in his report.
So an issue as urgent and important as climate change has received nothing but meaningless platitudes through a strategy drafted and then never followed, measured or reported on. Is there any reason to believe this attitude, obviously set out to placate those of us concerned with the state of our natural environment, isn’t going to be repeated in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan?
This is a plan that has been touted by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen as being able to give all interests what they want. Nothing could be more misplaced than that very attitude in a land use plan meant to resolve conflicts between uses on a land base that is over taxed by industry, used by recreation and home to endangered and threatened species. Something has to give.
Other officials have noted the means to achieve the goals, if there is any real interest in doing so, will take time. Yes, details take time, but one can just look to how well the government has done with its climate change strategy to realize they are likely just blowing smoke up our collective behind.
Time will tell, but we certainly don’t have our fingers crossed and hope the auditor general will track the SSRP as well and report back to Albertans in the future.