Elmeligi repeats the call to eliminate the K-Country pass

Banff-Kananaski MLA Sarah Elmeligi condemned the Alberta government’s contradictory land use practices in Kananaskis Country and reiterated the call to abolish the Kananaskis Conservation Pass (KCP).

During a press conference coinciding with the May Long weekend, Elmeligi criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the use of pass revenue and argued it is an unnecessary burden on Albertans, who she said would face the 2023 highest inflation rate of all Canadians. .

The pass was launched on June 1, 2021, by then-Secretary of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon as a means to improve the overall visitor experience, paying for trail maintenance, search and rescue operations, visitor services, and the maintenance of campgrounds and day-use areas .

In October 2021, Nixon reported that it had already generated $10 million and was on track to meet its $15 million target by the end of the fiscal year. He outlined where the money generated was used.

READ: Kananaskis passes generate more than $10 million

That outlook proved overly optimistic when the province announced revenues of $12 million in 2021-2022. In March 2023, officials said the pass raised $11 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, without providing details on how the revenue was used.

“One of the biggest problems with the Kananaskis Pass is that all of the money raised goes to general revenue and that makes it very difficult to track exactly how Kananaskis dollars are reallocated back to Kananaskis,” Elmeligi said. “That’s always been one of my issues with Kananaskis Pass.”

She says it should be eliminated and all parks should be publicly funded. By doing this, she says, there would be a little more accountability and transparency.

Elmeligi said Danielle Smith was in favor of revoking the pass prior to her election as leader of the UCP. She produced a video in which Smith said this was an issue that both she and NDP Leader Rachel Notley agreed on.

“Kananaskis was always intended to be an open access place for Albertans,” Smith said in the video. “They used to have priority access even to the golf course for Albertans. The idea that we’re going to improve things and improve access by charging – what it is, a $90 admission – has implications for families at a time when everything goes for families, so I agree with you (Rachel Notley).

In December 2022, she changed her tune and instead called on Todd Loewen, Minister of Forests, Parks and Tourism, to review the pass.

The province has not yet provided an update.

“This broken promise is not just about affordability,” says Elmeligi. “It’s also about transparency and this government’s reckless mismanagement of the land that Albertans love. Myself and my colleagues in the Alberta NDP are calling on Danielle Smith and the UCP to finally revoke the Kananaskis Conservation Pass and restore conservation and development properly plan and finance the land use of this important area.”

Elmeligi’s concerns about K-Country’s management go much deeper. then the pass. It is how land has been allocated to both the forestry industry for logging and recreational users for trail development.

“This has created a mess of user conflict, upset communities, upset recreationalists, and the UCP has just walked away from the mess they created. I have received hundreds of emails from voters who are both concerned and completely confused about why they are doing that. Paying $90 for a conservation pass to protect and improve trails when those same areas were already slated for logging. “The left hand of the UCP clearly does not know what the right hand is doing, and this is a clear example of the UCP’s incompetence and lack of foresight in balancing resource development and land use planning.”

Elmeligi says she is paying close attention to the implementation of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, which is in need of renewal.

“I’m curious to see when the minister will announce that renewal or review process of that plan,” she says, “and then ensure that we implement and adhere to it. There are clear guidelines in Social Saskatchewan’s regional plan, but we don’t refer to it often or implement it where it says the Eastern Slopes is actually over headwaters, for example. So how do we reflect that in land use decisions?”

When it was introduced, a KCP for personal use cost $15 per day or $90 per year for two vehicles. The daily rate now applies to one vehicle, while the annual rate covers three vehicles. There are two levels of commercial fees.