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Commentary: Is the environment being protected?

Government has rolled back 54 environmental rules, far more than any other province

With the COVID-19 pandemic now in its second year, the financial, social, educational and health-care costs continue to mount day by day, including right here in rural central Alberta.

Coming up with a final tally of the costs will, of course, have to wait until the crisis is over, and even then calculating some of the costs will likely prove impossible.

Nevertheless the political battle over how the pandemic has been handled by the Kenney government has already begun and will likely continue until at least the 2023 election.

One of the key areas of debate now underway is whether the government has succeeded or failed in the critical area of environmental protection.

Recently released by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, a new report states the provincial government has rolled back 54 environmental rules, far more than any other province.

“Alberta was the only jurisdiction to completely suspend reporting obligations, doing so for a wide swath of environmental approval holders across multiple sectors,” said Victoria Goodday, the report’s author.

Marlin Schmidt, NDP environment critic, said, “It’s clear that Jason Kenney used the pandemic as an excuse to roll back critical protections for Alberta’s water, land and air. This is part of a pattern of dishonest behaviour by Jason Kenney during the pandemic, including his sneaky cancellation of the coal policy and his plan to sell Alberta parks.”

Jason Nixon is the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House- Sundre UCP MLA and Alberta’s minister of Environment and Parks. In a statement provided to The Albertan, he called the report “inaccurate” and lacking in “important context."

“Alberta has a strong history of protecting our air, land, water and wildlife, and that has not changed,” said Nixon. “Alberta has a much more robust regulatory system than other provinces given the scope of our heavy industries.”

A healthy environment is critically important to the well-being of every Alberta community.

As such, citizens will be watching carefully to see whether the Kenney government really is failing in the vital matter of environmental protection.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.