As an Alberta professional planner, some provincial hierarchical information appears to need clarity for Three Sisters. Dates of approval of provincial boards and legislation reflect change over time. Multi-jurisdictional professionals, citizens, council, and panel members, are or at least should work together on broad community ongoing issues.
The question: Is there balance between Indigenous and environmental rights with economic and development rights in the Three Sisters plans? Per the Outlook’s, Jan. 25, 2024, front page, the issue continues to be a concern by both environmental groups and agencies, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations.
At the time when Alberta was in a bust cycle, the Natural Resource Conservation Board was established by the province and considered giving development rights for the Three Sisters area located on Crown lands. The land was not part of the Town of Canmore. The province annexed the lands to the Canmore, presumably to provide a review process as the projects were planned.
In 2008, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) was approved based on a land use framework developed following studies since 2001. The goal was “to achieve Alberta’s long-term economic, environmental and social goals.”
In 2014, as part of the ALSA seven regional plans are to be developed in Alberta. One, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan that includes the Three Sisters area was approved in 2014 and updated in 2018. There are multiple goals, including “…ongoing commitment to engage Albertans, including aboriginal peoples, in land-use planning” and the use of “a cumulative effects management approach to balance economic development opportunities and social and environmental considerations.”
The Municipal Government Act (MGA) has had multiple iterations since its initial approval and was most recently updated in 2023. MGA Section 618.3 (2020) provides for the following “Anything done by any of the following under a provision in this part or a regulation under this part must be done in accordance with any applicable ALSA regional plan…” The list includes all boards, councils, commissions, tribunals, and the NCRB among others.
The MGA further notes “If there is a conflict or an inconsistency between anything that is done under a provision of this part or a regulation under this part and an applicable ALSA regional plan, the ALSA regional plan prevails to the extent of the conflict or the inconsistency.”
The courts have been requested to decide on the validity of the claims submitted by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. Bow Valley Engage has requested the province to undertake an environmental impact assessment. If the local court system or the province doesn’t find a way to address the time-related change problems created, what will happen?