Steam billows from the Sheerness coal-fired generating station near Hanna, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Steam billows from the Sheerness coal-fired generating station near Hanna, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta didn’t consider impact of mountain coal mining on tourism: official

Justin Brattinga, spokesman for current minister Doug Schweitzer, said the tourism strategy is being completely revised

Alberta revoked a long-standing policy that protected its mountains and foothills from open-pit coal mines without considering how that might affect its most popular tourist attraction, a government official has acknowledged.

“There was no analysis around the implications of the coal policy on the 10-year tourism strategy,” Kate White, deputy minister of jobs, economy and innovation, told a legislature committee this week in response to a question from NDP environment critic Marlin Schmidt.

Alberta’s 10-year tourism plan, announced in October 2019 by then-minister Tanya Fir, was to double the industry’s revenue to $20 billion by 2030.

A letter from Fir dated about the same time suggests the government was already planning to expand the province’s coal industry.

“I look to hearing from you on the progress of your project,” Fir wrote to the head of Valory Resources, which plans an open-pit mine in the Rockies west of Red Deer, Alta.

“Do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do to help in the completion of your mining project.”

In May 2020, the United Conservative government quietly revoked a 44-year-old policy that had protected the eastern slopes and summits of the Rocky Mountains from coal mines. The change led to a rush of exploration leases. At least six companies secured dibs on tens of thousands of hectares along the mountains.

The government reinstated the policy earlier this year and stopped new lease sales. But drilling and road-building on leases already sold is expected to continue this summer.

Alberta’s national parks are top tourism draws and are not threatened by mining.

But parks officials are already concerned about the number of visitors to popular sites such as Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Tourism operators have been hoping to expand into areas such as Bighorn Country west of Rocky Mountain House.

Municipal officials there have already expressed concern about how coal-mining could affect their tourism plans.

“We have given no policy advice in (2019-20) with reference to coal policy,” White told the committee. “The issue of coal development was not a prominent file for the department.”

In an interview Thursday, Schmidt pointed out Fir’s ministry — then called Economic Development, Trade and Tourism — was in charge of the industry.

“It seems to me a significant oversight,” he said.

“I would think developing coal mines in our most popular tourist areas might have some impacts. The fact the department didn’t give that potential any serious thought is extremely concerning.”

Justin Brattinga, spokesman for current minister Doug Schweitzer, said the tourism strategy is being completely revised due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The development of the strategy will require extensive consultation with the tourism industry, that will cover a range of topics, including Alberta’s world-leading resource extraction industries.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
‘We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man’:Kenney faces internal call to quit

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen, in a letter posted on Facebook, called on Kenney to resign

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

ALERT seized drugs and a variety of guns from a home in Lacombe on May 5 after an investigation. (Photo courtesy of ALERT)
Guns and drugs seized in Lacombe

Lacombe Police Service and ALERT worked together in a joint investigation

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta justice minister sorry for saying feds, others rooting for COVID disaster

Earlier Tuesday, prior to Madu’s apology, Trudeau rejected the accusations

Most Read