As one contemplates the growing list of funding cutbacks, agency terminations, and vexatious legislation being inflicted upon the agriculture business one might presume that the Alberta NDP government has a grudge against our industry. As one observes the latest bit of bureaucratic subterfuge one might become suspicious of the ulterior motives of this government. I cite the matter of ranchers in the Milk River watershed receiving letters from the Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) department seemingly advising them that their historic water use applications may be cancelled. That comes as a shock to law-abiding ranchers and farmers as that water use affects their very existence. What’s even more egregious is that there is no mention that they have 30 days to appeal as required in the legislation. If they don’t appeal, their files are closed and their rights are formally cancelled. One presumes that ranchers will be fined (arrested?) for allowing their cattle to consume water from their de-licensed water sources. For many this is the first time in 16 years that they have heard from the AEP. It boggles the mind.
At time of writing the AEP department bureaucratic brain trust has not deemed it necessary to justify or officially respond to ranchers’ concerns over this arbitrary action. Is this now an acceptable way for a government to act – take away historic rights and refuse to say why?
It’s so bad that one ranching family has had to launch a legal challenge to get the government’s attention to this outrageous seizure of rights to make a living. One ponders are professional bureaucrats so insensitive, so ignorant as to what they are doing to ranchers.
Their silence is deafening, but then perhaps they have had little choice if orders have come down from their political masters. That causes one to ponder is this just more ideological mischief by an NDP government.
Then again is this assault on water rights part of a larger radical environmental agenda that is being instigated by the usual extremist green lobby that are ideological bedmates of many in the NDP government. I suspect the fine hand of perhaps the Ecojustice group behind this somewhere. They come to mind because this same group was behind the sage grouse conservation issue lawsuit that occurred in almost the exact same area – southeast Alberta. Ecojustice also created a document entitled “Fight to the Last Drop – A glimpse into Alberta’s Water Future.” That biased study took direct aim at water usage by agriculture in southern Alberta and disparaged the irrigation industry.
It also suggests that government should receive royalties for issuing water rights. They also know there are different ways to skin a cat – be it lawsuits, or manipulating their gullible ideological soul mates in government and the bureaucracy. Ecojustice is an extremist green legal firm that was created by the Sierra Legal Defense Fund which is a front for the notorious Sierra Club.
In the absence of forthright honest answers, conspiracy theories will proliferate; Was the AEP being threatened with a lawsuit for neglecting and not updating the water rights application system for 16 years. Do enviro groups see an opportunity to steal water rights in order to increase government control over the Milk River watershed for conservation purposes. Is the AEP Minister and her political staff completely unaware of what her bureaucrats are doing? I think not, bureaucrats aren’t known to look for more work to do; reviewing 1,000 water rights applications in the South Saskatchewan river region is a big job and had to have been ordered from the top of the AEP political chain.
The matter gets more curious – the NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville whilst attending the Western Stock Growers Association AGM stated that she would seek to resolve the issue for the rancher involved in the lawsuit. There seems to be a disconnect here – an NDP government MLA seemingly unaware of the repercussions of this issue in the countryside is going to resolve a crisis her government created. Do these folks actually talk to each other or was she sent to the meeting by NDP government political staff just to distract rancher outrage by appearing to be concerned and offering duplicitous help.
By accident or design the NDP government has created fear over water rights for ranchers who are trying to raise their families and provide food for the nation. One ponders how many more provocations will be inflicted upon the agriculture industry by this seemingly out-of-touch NDP government before the next election.