Let­ter to the edi­tor... Parks and recre­ational ar­eas are a pub­lic trust, an eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, and not red tape.

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - OPINION - Edi­tor:

Or­derly de­vel­op­ment and con­ser­va­tion of parks and recre­ation ar­eas should be treated as a pub­lic trust with the po­ten­tial for great eco­nomic spinoffs. They let us get out­side, in­ter­act with na­ture and are a val­ued part of our qual­ity of life. This is par­tic­u­larly the case dur­ing a pan­demic where get­ting out­side can ease stress as­so­ci­ated with these dif­fi­cult times. The de­ci­sion of the Gov­ern­ment of Al­berta to close and pri­va­tize a long list of recre­ation ar­eas and parks in Al­berta is one that may un­der­mine Al­ber­tan’s fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties and un­der­mine our ex­pe­ri­ences at these sites.

So where does the red tape come in? Bill 22, the Red Tape Re­duc­tion Act, was tabled in the leg­is­la­ture last Thurs­day and aims to re­peal a lit­tle-known law, the Recre­ation De­vel­op­ment Act. This Act states that the “Min­is­ter shall pro­mote and en­cour­age the or­derly de­vel­op­ment of recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties and fa­cil­i­ties for the bet­ter­ment of the peo­ple of Al­berta”. In sup­port of this func­tion the Act con­tin­ues to out­line a va­ri­ety of mech­a­nisms the Min­is­ter might pur­sue to fur­ther the Min­is­te­rial Func­tion.

The func­tion of the Min­is­ter has two no­table parts in my view: 1) that recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties will be de­vel­oped in an “or­derly” fash­ion and 2) it will

hap­pen “for the bet­ter­ment of the peo­ple of Al­berta”. Both these things are sen­si­ble and likely what most Al­ber­tans want to see from their gov­ern­ment in man­ag­ing their pub­lic lands and the recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties they have on them.

In this re­gard, Al­ber­tans might rightly see the long-term man­age­ment of parks and recre­ational ar­eas as a pub­lic trust, some­thing that re­quires the gov­ern­ment to dis­cuss with Al­ber­tans the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for these sites. This in­cludes in­ves­ti­gat­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for how these sites may be man­aged bet­ter in the long term, how to pro­mote these sites for eco­nomic out­comes and, when strate­gic op­por­tu­ni­ties arise, whether in­cor­po­rat­ing the pri­vate sec­tor is the right op­tion. A carte blanche ap­proach to parks and recre­ational ar­eas is not or­derly and car­ries sig­nif­i­cant risk; while it may work in some in­stances, it may very well backfire in others.

It is for this rea­son that the Gov­ern­ment of Al­berta should halt the cur­rent process re­lated to the recre­ational ar­eas and parks, step back and take some time to eval­u­ate, strate­gize, and pur­sue or­derly de­vel­op­ment of these sites for the bet­ter­ment of Al­ber­tans. If there is some­thing bro­ken in how we man­age these sites let’s take an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage Al­ber­tans in fix­ing them. We should not be re­peal­ing the Recre­ation De­vel­op­ment Act; we should be liv­ing up to its un­der­ly­ing in­tent. It’s not red tape re­duc­tion we need in this case but some strate­gic ap­pli­ca­tion of duct tape. (And let’s not un­der­es­ti­mate Al­ber­tan in­ge­nu­ity when it comes to ef­fec­tive use of duct tape).

Ja­sonUn­geris­theEx­ec­u­tiveDirec­to­rof theEn­vi­ron­men­talLawCen­tre,alawand pol­i­cy­fo­cused­char­i­ty­based­inEd­mon­ton. He­can­bereache­datjunger@elc.ab.ca.

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