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Frustration over lack of answers on virtual meeting on Alberta Parks

Last Updated Nov 19, 2020 at 8:30 am MST

The hiking trail on Yamnuska in Alberta's Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, part of Kananaskis Country, is shown in June 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colette Derworiz

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A conservation group is raising concerns about a digital Q and A session with Environment Minister Jason Nixon on Tuesday.

Many people were hoping to ask questions about parks, with concerns that the Alberta government will be selling off some land. However, questions were limited and the chat feature was eventually shut off during the session.

Becky Best-Bertwhistle with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) said when Nixon did take questions, he didn’t give sufficient answers.

“It was kind of clear that this event was orchestrated to be more of an echo chamber than a town hall. I know that a lot of Albertans who tuned in, including myself, were incredibly frustrated and disappointed to have their questions and concerns ignored.”

She believes the government underestimates how concerned people are about plans that may affect parks.

Best-Bertwhistle said many were not able to get their questions answered as the Facebook live stream was heavily moderated and many in the town hall were there by invitation.

“There were some comments from the minister last night (saying) some parks are not being delisted and we hope that means they are backing off from their original intention and statements they made earlier in the year.”

The UCP government has said there are no plans to sell parkland, though they will be delisting some land to save money.

During question period Wednesday in the legislature, Environment Minister Jason Nixon said there is nothing to be concerned about when it comes to delisting public land.

“Remain fully funded in the province of Alberta, fully protected within Alberta environment parks and underneath the provincial parks system. Mr. Speaker that’s the facts and unfortunately, the NDP and their close extreme environmental organization allies like to make things up when it comes to that, but not one of those sites will be closed.”

Nixon adds they will not be pushing for industrial development in Kananaskis.

“This government remains committed to it, it prevents any industrial development within the Kananaskis area, Mr. Speaker it certainly protects the landscapes, both public land in Kananaskis and parkland in Kananaskis from being sold. This again Mr. Speaker is just another example of the NDP making it up.”

Best-Bertwhistle said she’s not optimistic about the future of parks and public land under the UCP government given the recent town hall and lack of answers in the past.

She said all original documents about the government’s plans for the parks have since been removed from the Environment and Parks website.

CPAWS and its partners from the Alberta Environment Network are hosting their own town hall on the parks issue on Nov. 25.