Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips on Saturday canceled public information sessions on new parks in the Bighorn area.
In a statement, she mentions “intimidation” and “abuse” which, in her view, preclude guaranteeing participants’ safety.
“I heard that Albertans were scared of attending community events, that Albertans were being vilified in public, that Albertans were being followed to their homes, that Albertans felt too intimidated to speak up or participate to this important discussion, “she said in her statement.
“I call on all elected officials to denounce the intimidation and harassment faced by supporters of Bighorn,” she added, referring to supporters of the government’s plan.
In November, New Democrats announced the creation of eight new parks in the province covering 4000 square kilometers along the eastern boundaries of Banff and Jasper National Parks.
Fourteen open and public information sessions were scheduled in five locations between December and 31 January.
Phillips, however, announced Saturday that the next scheduled sessions at Drayton Valley, Red Deer, Sundre and Edmonton would be canceled. She added that the government will re-evaluate its plans to ensure that community members “can speak safely”.
She indicated that the government will hold two telephone sessions for residents of Drayton Valley and Red Deer and that public consultations will be extended until February 15th.
Jason Nixon, a United Conservative MP, condemned the bullying in general while claiming he was not witnessed during the consultation sessions.
“I personally attended a number of public events regarding Bighorn and, although participants were very concerned about the proposal, they were also very polite,” Nixon said in a statement.
The plan for new parks provides for a variety of licensed activities. The government plans to invest $ 40 million over five years for campgrounds and other infrastructure. New restrictions will be imposed on off-road vehicles, horseback riding and hunting. Pasture leases would be maintained and no existing trails would be closed.