An Alberta mayor says he is concerned that a massive public outrage over coal mining in the province’s Rocky Mountains will be ignored after hearing Prime Minister Jason Kenney tell him he remains an “unapologetic supporter” of the industry.
“It’s very clear to me that Prime Minister Kenney is 100 percent behind the coal mining companies,” said Craig Snodgrass of High River after earlier this meeting with Prime Minister of Energy Sonya Savage and his local member of the Legislative Assembly, Roger Reid. month.
The comments came to light this week after Snodgrass informed the town council about the meeting, which took place at Snodgrass’ request. High River’s board was a staunch opponent of the industry’s expansion.
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The meeting took place about two weeks after the government received public consultation reports on the expansion of the industry. Snodgrass said he asked for the meeting with the county to see if the reports shifted Kenney’s position from those expressed in year-end interviews.
“I wanted to see, ‘Are you serious about your comments?’ He absolutely gave me his 100 percent honest opinion on it, whether I like it or not. “
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Although the reports have not been made public, submissions posted on the committee’s website indicate that many, if not most, Albertans are opposed to widespread open-pit coal mining on some of the province’s most beloved landscapes and the upper reaches. of most of his drinking water. .
Kenney is not, Snodgrass said.
“He made it very clear that he was an inexcusable supporter of the industry,” Snodgrass said. He said the prime minister referred dismissively to the work of the Coal Consultation Committee, which collected 605 email submissions, held 59 meetings across the province and published 16 technical minutes and 36 meeting submissions.
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“The only thing he said was that it was information that was part of the decision.”
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In a statement sent by email, Kenney spokesman Justin Brattinga said the reports would appear.
“The Alberta Government is taking time to review the Coal Policy Committee’s reports and plans to release the reports once a thorough review of the findings has been completed,” he said.
“We will also respond to the committee’s recommendations when the reports are released.”
Coal development has been controversial in Alberta since the spring of 2020 when the United Conservative government abruptly repealed a policy that has protected the Rockies’ peaks and foothills since 1976 from open pit coal mines. Within weeks, thousands of acres were leased for coal exploration.
New Democratic opposition politicians have said Kenney’s remarks show the government is not listening to Albertans.
“One can not claim to listen and say that they have been decided,” says Shannon Phillips of Lethbridge, a city that would be downstream of many of the potential mines.
Environmental critic Marlin Schmidt called on the government to release the reports.
“We want to know exactly what the Albertans’ coal committee heard and what it recommended to the government,” he said. “The thousands of Albertans who took part in the consultations will be able to say whether the coal policy committee accurately captured what they heard.”
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Snodgrass said his impression was that not everyone at the meeting shared Kenney’s certainty.
“I know members of the UCP, Sonya (Savage) and cabinet ministers, most of them take (the reports) seriously,” he said.
But Schmidt said it was the prime minister who mattered most.
“A division in the cabinet does not matter. If there is disagreement, the prime minister will win. “
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