Posted on Apr 7, 2021


EDMONTON - Today, NDP Leader Rachel Notley is introducing important new legislation in the Assembly that, if passed, will protect Alberta’s unique Rocky Mountain landscapes and irreplaceable watersheds from expanded coal mining and related activities.


“Albertans absolutely do not want their Rocky Mountains and watersheds scarred and polluted by coal mining,” Notley said. “People from all walks of life, all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of political opinions — all agree these distinctly Albertan landscapes must not be disfigured by mining, and the farms and communities that depend on this region for clean water must also be protected.


“The Eastern Slopes Protection Act, will assure Alberta families and businesses that their natural spaces and clean water will be protected by law.”


The Eastern Slopes Protection Act does four things:


  • Immediately cancels all exploration activities across the Eastern Slopes - which means a stop to road building and test pits.
  • Permanently prohibits new coal mining and related activities in Category 1 and Category 2 lands, and cancels all existing coal leases on these lands.
  • Prohibits coal mining and related activities in Category 3 and Category 4 lands pending the development of a thorough regional plan following extensive consultation with residents of the Eastern Slopes, Indigenous communities, elders, and communities, as well as municipalities, ranchers, farmers, agricultural, tourism and recreational businesses, and representatives of other affected industry and economic sectors.
  • Prohibits the Alberta Energy Regulator from issuing approvals, including for water permits, in categories 3 and 4, and cancels leases issued in conjunction with the UCP’s cancellation of the 1976 Coal Development Policy in May 2020, pending the outcome of the regional plan described above. Existing mines in the operations/full production stage are unaffected.


“Albertans simply can’t trust Jason Kenney and the UCP on this issue,” said Marlin Schmidt, NDP Critic for Environment and Parks. “They were in secret talks with foreign mining interests before quietly cancelling the 1976 Lougheed Coal Policy late on a Friday before a long weekend last year and hoping no one would notice. 


“When Albertans spoke out against this, Jason Kenney tried to gaslight Albertans. He told them they didn’t understand the issue and that the Lougheed Coal Policy was ‘a dead letter.’ Then he tried to distract people by cancelling a small number of leases and pretending the problem was solved. When that didn’t work either he launched a vague consultation process that seems designed to provide cover for expanded coal mining. 


“Albertans want mountains, not mines, and water not coal. This legislation will cut through Kenney’s trickery and provide that protection in law,” Schmidt said.


“These are exactly the provisions the legislature should support,” said Gordon Cartwright, owner of the D Ranch, near High River. “Certainly I will support this, as I believe most members of the community will or should. We appreciate this initiative, and will support it in any viable way we can.”


“You can have open pit coal mines or fresh water; you cannot have both,” said Cam Gardner, rancher and councillor for the MD of Ranchland. “This bill is a testament that Alberta will not blindly trade away the sanctity of the Eastern Slopes, the source of all our fresh-water security. Land use decisions with this much potential impact, affecting so many aspects of society, reach far beyond regional boundaries and affect generations far into the future. Impacts to climate and Alberta’s emissions liability, species at risk, water security, other sustainable industries dependent on intact ecosystems, tourism, and the loss forever of areas sacred in Indigenous society, form only a partial list of potential trade-offs that Albertans deserve to fully contemplate.”


The bill’s first stop will be the Private Members’ Bill Committee where the UCP has used its majority to kill every opposition bill so far.


“I’m putting the MLAs on that committee on notice,” Notley said. “If they want to ignore their constituents’ wishes, and keep pushing Jason Kenney’s coal mining plans and endangering the water supply that farms and communities rely on, they should have the backbone to stand up in the legislature and explain themselves. Burying this bill would be yet another attempted cover-up, and Albertans have no more patience for any more of that.


“Let’s bring the Eastern Slopes Protection Act to a vote in the assembly and let every Albertan see where their elected MLA stands. Most importantly, let’s protect our mountains and watersheds for generations to come.”