I am writing regarding Lacombe County’s “informal” policy that prevents videotaping of public hearings (Apr 24, “Controversy erupts …”).
I am the audience member denied permission by Reeve Terry Engen to record this important hearing.
My intent was to allow for the broadest possible exposure of this important public interest story. I believe that Lacombe County prevented me from creating this recording because wider public distribution of their unsustainable plan for Sylvan Lake is exactly what they do not want.
Alberta Municipal Affairs informed me prior to the hearing that the Municipal Government Act does not prevent members of the public from making an electronic record of public hearings.
I was quite surprised when Reeve Engen and Commissioner Hager stated that videotaping would not be permitted. Even more surprising, they said that that they had a legal opinion to support this “informal” policy (not that they offered to show it). After only a few minutes of recording, the Commissioner rushed over to have the “heated confrontation” reported in your article.
Lacombe County has since stated that it will develop policy to preclude public dissemination of their public hearings. Why? Could it be that Lacombe County understands that the majority of lake users and residents do not support the high-density development plans it has for much of the Sylvan Lake watershed?
Lacombe County is knowingly transferring the inevitable pollution risk to the public.
Dr. David Schindler, Alberta’s own world-renowned water scientist, has publicly stated that Lacombe County intentions will affect water quality at Sylvan Lake. The resulting outcomes caused by a progressive change towards eutrophic water quality are blue green algae blooms, swimmers itch at the beach, fish kills and odiferous stench.
Dr. Schindler has stated that 50 years of science tells Lacombe County that it should not do what it plans to do.
Lacombe County’s current position is to say that Sylvan Lake sustainability is the responsibility of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, and their only responsibility is to approve development.
So who is legally accountable for managing the cumulative impacts of long-term lake pollution arising from Lacombe County’s decisions? That’s a tremendously important question, and the answer is unclear.
This “gray area” of shared governance and accountability between Lacombe and the Province is appalling.
Actions speak volumes, and this is why I must conclude that Lacombe County is thumbing its’ nose at Provincial efforts.
By doing this, they are hurting not only their own constituents who enjoy this lake, but also the substantial environmental value that the lake has for all Albertans.
Lacombe County is ignoring 50 years of sound science and expert opinion on how much cumulative development our lake can withstand. The County fears that if the public is sufficiently informed, they will undoubtedly insist upon accountability.
That’s why Lacombe County will do their best to restrict broad public access to their hearings.