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New bill allows Alberta government to set conditions for national urban park decisions

A private member’s bill that grants the Alberta government more power over decisions around national urban parks passed in the legislature on Monday. 

Bill 204 is an amendment to the Municipal Government’s Act. It was first introduced last November. 

The bill states that the province can prescribe conditions under which a municipal council may negotiate a proposed national urban park plan and councils would be required to follow those conditions. 

Leduc-Beaumont MLA Brandon Lunty introduced the bill after learning of the City of Edmonton’s decision to look into creating a national urban park in the river valley. 

“When we saw this process was ongoing with the City of Edmonton, I was interested in what the provincial role might look like,” Lunty told CBC’s Edmonton AM on Thursday. 

“It turned out there wasn’t really a formalized or codified way for the province to be involved, so that was the loophole we were looking to address.” 

LISTEN | Alberta now involved in urban national park decisions

Edmonton AM4:03Alberta passes bill to which gives province more control over Urban National Parks

The Alberta government has passed a private member’s bill that gives it more control over decisions around urban national parks, like the one planned for Edmonton’s river valley. Brandon Lunty is the United Conservative Party MLA for Leduc-Beaumont.

In 2021, the federal government launched the National Urban Parks program to create parks in urban centres. The City of Edmonton and Parks Canada entered into a formal agreement to explore the possibility of creating a national urban park in the river valley in 2022, according to a city report

“This bill just ensures that the province will have a role, will have a seat in those conversations and the cabinet would get a chance to set conditions,” Lunty said. 

The bill states that any agreements the city makes with the federal government will be invalid, if it doesn’t meet the conditions set by the province. Any bylaws passed by council would also be invalid if they fail to meet the conditions. 

WATCH | Could Edmonton’s river valley become a national urban park?

Could Edmonton’s river valley become a national urban park?

10 months ago

Duration 6:11

A proposal to turn Edmonton’s river valley into a national urban park is quickly gaining popularity. But what does that mean?

Lunty said that they would like to be included in discussions around conservation, recreation and development. 

In introducing the third reading in the legislature, Lunty said “a hostile federal government and faceless bureaucrats in Ottawa, most of whom have never stepped foot in our beautiful province, do not have our best interests at heart as they attempt to dictate terms directly with our municipalities without the province having a voice on behalf of all Albertans.”

In a written statement to CBC, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city will “never cede control of our cherished river valley to any other level of government, be it federal or provincial.”

“Like Bill 18, this bill is another example of the province creating more red tape and getting in the way of the City of Edmonton working collaboratively with other levels of government and community stakeholders,” he said.

Bill 18 would give the province power to vet any agreement between the federal government and an Alberta town, school board, university or other provincial entity.

Lunty said his bill is not about taking control.

“I would say we value our partnership with Edmonton and all municipalities and would certainly continue to welcome ongoing discussions with Edmonton or any other municipality who is considering talking to the federal government of a national urban park,” he said.

A man standing inside a building holding a piece of paper.
MLA Brandon Lunty introduced Bill 204, which states that the provincial government can prescribe conditions under which a municipal council may negotiate a proposed national urban park plan. (Submitted by Sarah Mejia)

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) voiced its opposition to the bill last December, shortly after it was first introduced. CPAWS questioned why the province would introduce roadblocks to the park creation process.

“Albertans have made it abundantly clear that they love parks and want to see more, not fewer, parks,” said Kecia Kerr, CPAWS northern Alberta’s executive director.

Anne Stevenson, councillor for Ward O-day’min, said council is open to working with the province and keeping them informed. 

However, she is curious about the concerns the provincial government had around national urban centres that they would like to address.

“I’m hopeful that there will be more information coming around the purpose of the legislation and how we see that rolling out in the future,” she said. 

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