Alberta pushes back against federal caribou protection plan – by Kelly cryderman (Globe and Mail – March 20, 2018)

The Alberta government is pushing back against a federal deadline for a plan to protect woodland caribou under the Species at Risk Act, saying the still-fragile state of the province’s economy means it will suspend any consideration of setting aside conservation lands until it studies the socio-economic effects.

A strongly worded letter – in government terms – from Alberta to Ottawa Monday sets up the potential of a political showdown over environmental measures. It asks Ottawa to ante up more funding, saying the cost of restoration over the next four decades could top $1-billion and that even rearing facilities for caribou will cost $75-million.

Premier Rachel Notley’s government also said it is sending a delegation to Ottawa to discuss the “enormous undertaking to fulfill federal law,” and asks that Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna hold off from “prematurely implementing federal protection orders that will not have effective outcomes for Canadians and Albertans.”

The letter comes as many other provinces also struggle or face environmental criticism in their efforts to protect the caribou. But the move also comes as many Albertans openly question whether the federal government places enough value on the province’s largest industry, oil and gas.

And Alberta’s NDP government is just more than a year away from a provincial election that will pit it against Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party, which is leading in the polls and has promised to take a harder line when it comes to dealing with Ottawa over energy policy and pipelines.

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