UCP calls on Environment Minister to step aside from Bighorn consultations - 660 City NEWS
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UCP calls on Environment Minister to step aside from Bighorn consultations

Calgary-West United Conservative Party MLA Mike Ellis speaks to reporters outside the McDougall Centre. Wednesday, January 9th, 2019. (Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)
Summary

The UCP feels the environment minister is unfit to stay on Bighorn County file.

Shannon Phillips cancelled consultations on plans to create provincial parks in the area, citing harassment concerns.

Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis says the NDP needs to better address concerns from residents in the area.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — In the wake of cancelled public consultations over the province’s plan to create provincial parks in Bighorn County, the United Conservative Party says Alberta’s Environment Minister is unfit to stay on the file.

Shannon Phillips abruptly cancelled the meetings on the weekend, citing reports of harassment against government officials and supporters of the plan.

The meetings will be replaced with telephone town halls, unless they can be assured of everyone’s safety at in-person sessions.

However, in a report from Tuesday, Alberta RCMP said they were not aware of any investigation exploring these alleged threats.

Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis spoke to reporters outside the McDougall Centre on Wednesday criticizing Phillips’ conduct.

“Sadly, this minister chose to politicize our law enforcement, mislead Albertans, and slander countless concerned Albertans as behaving in a way that warranted exceptional RCMP intervention.”

Ellis did condemn all threats and harassment, but adds there are no documented incidents to back up the claims.

Also on Wednesday, Phillips said there have been nine cases of verbal and other harassment of government officials surrounding hearings into the Bighorn County park plan, including two serious cases, but declined to provide details.

Ellis said this follows a pattern of inconsistencies on the issue, ever since the NDP announced plans to protect the Bighorn region in November, including Phillips’ disputed claim that she met with the mayor of Rocky Mountain House.

He said there is a lack of public trust on the matter, and there’s only one way to repair it.

“It would be best if the minister stepped aside, and another minister oversaw the process for the Bighorn region.”

Ellis added that public consultations over Bighorn should be extended, and the NDP needs to better address concerns from residents in the area.

In November, Phillips announced eight new parks covering 4,000 square kilometres in the Bighorn area, along the eastern edges of Banff and Jasper national parks.

Residents and area officials have raised concerns about how the project might affect oil and gas exploration, the forestry industry, and off-road vehicle use.

With files from the Canadian Press