Hon. Jim Prentice, premier:
Congratulations, although it is beyond me why a man would leave a good and accomplished life to attempt cleaning up the mess your party and this province are in.
I have to assume that you envision a better Alberta for Albertans.
I’m not a Conservative but our lives have some similarities.
We are both graduates of the University of Alberta and Dalhousie Law School, me in 1962, you in ’80.
We both worked hard to pay our ways through, you in coal mines, me on pipelines.
More importantly for the free advice I am going to be giving you, we are both outdoors people who love hunting and fishing.
You are probably the first Alberta premier to do both. Don Getty hunted and Ralph fished, mostly in B.C., but his only Alberta outdoors initiative was to impose the unscientific, useless and much-despised mandatory barbless hooks on Alberta’s anglers, who are glad it’s gone.
This column has done an open letter to premier only once before: in 1971, when Hon. Peter Lougheed became our premier.
For a couple of years before that, his small band of Opposition members were attending meetings of big Alberta organizations, getting a feel for the hopes and aspirations of Albertans.
Mr. Lougheed and I became friends when he attended two annual conventions of the Alberta Fish and Game Association.
While he neither hunted nor fished, he explained to me that he loved to be out in Alberta’s outdoors. His first government created the Buck for Wildlife trust fund, something the AFGA had been wanting for years: a levy on hunters and anglers earmarked to acquire, preserve and protect fish and wildlife habitats.
The first Buck for Wildlife project was the North Raven River. Millions of dollars of mostly Alberta angler and hunter money, and thousands of hours of paid and unpaid volunteer manpower have gone into the superb restoration project that, in 40 years, has brought the North Raven back from nearly-destroyed to a world-class trout stream and certainly Alberta’s finest.
Now the underground aquifers and springs that are the only source of the North Raven are threatened by a proposed gravel pit.
Other provincial angling treasures that are gone, or going fast: Alberta’s formerly best bull trout water, the Muskeg River and the Little Smoky River, North America’s first catch and release grayling fishery.
Native fish, our provincial fish, the bull trout, the Athabasca rainbow, the arctic grayling, the west slope cutthroat, even the northern pike are all in serious trouble or nearing extinction in Alberta.
On the wildlife side, the sage grouse and the caribou are gone.
All these are losses of the past 40 years, mostly the cumulative result of serious damage to Alberta’s land surface the energy, mining and forestry companies are permitted to get away with, mostly to our public land. The AFGA has recently sent a long and serious letter about cumulative effects to all MLAs.
This cannot go on. It is totally unsustainable.
You do not destroy renewable resources just to get quickly at non-renewable resources to sell off as fast as possible.
What will our heirs have left to live on when the oil and gas are gone?
To his dying day, Mr. Lougheed believed we must diversify, stop being a one-trick hoss with our total reliance on what big oil and gas are willing to pay us.
I believe diversification is a no-brainer: just manage our renewable resources properly, stop destroying them, wasting them, giving them away, and start benefitting from what they really should be earning, particularly our public land.
To those ends, we should restore the old and nobly-named Ministry of Lands and Forests and its former Fish and Wildlife Division, the destruction of the latter of which was another egregious gaffe of Alison Redford.
People asked you to keep your loyal friend Robin Campbell in the Environment — Sustainable Resource Development cabinet portfolio where he has done good things and had plans for more. But you have chosen to continue the PC tradition of regarding the ESRD cabinet post as a five-minute parking zone for has-beens on the way out, or rookies on the make-out.
Your appointee, Kyle Fawcett, Calgary — Klein, shows no particular qualification, interest or ideas for the ESRD portfolio, so he should carry on with some of Mr. Campbell’s initiatives, such as a Seniors’ Sportfishing Licence, a mandatory angler training course, and shortening and simplifying the Sportfishing Regulations.
In the sure event of a cabinet shuffle, you should consider Frank Oberle for another go at ESRD. He has a forestry background and in his previous two months in the portfolio demonstrated he understood what being a trustee for all Albertans of our renewable resources was all about.
Want a rookie? Consider your friend, Dr. Neil Brown, by education, experience and interest the most qualified of all MLAs for the ESRD portfolio. But since he offered you his Calgary MacKay — Nose Hill constituency to run in, I expect he’ll not run again; he’s probably as tired and discouraged as many Albertans are of the negligent mismanagement of our renewable natural resources.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at email@example.com.