Last week the Government of Alberta announced the start of the Coal Policy engagement. 

This process will gather feedback from Albertans about what they want to replace the 1976 Coal Policy, and it is kicking off with an initial public survey that closes on April 19th. We have a number of concerns about the process, transparency, and scope of the consultation. This survey is just the beginning of a months’ long process, but here’s what you need to know and how you can take action today.

  1. The government has established a Coal Policy Committee to guide the consultation, but there are many concerns about its membership and transparency. The committee is composed of former government officials, business owners and landowners. Many perspectives have been excluded from the committee, including conservation, municipal governments and agriculture. The committee will be responsible for guiding the consultation and delivering a report to the Minister of Energy in November 2021. It remains unclear if the committee's findings will be made public.  
  2. Exploration marches on. While the Coal Policy Committee leads consultation on how coal development should be regulated in Alberta, coal companies continue to move forward with invasive explorations plans. Some have stated that they plan to begin mining within the next two years. An honest conversation about the future of the Eastern Slopes cannot be had while the government continues to allow coal companies to move forward with their plans for development. 
  3. The survey is focused on coal, not on conservation. The ‘icebreaker’ survey that will be used as an introduction to the committee is focused on coal development, not the management of the Eastern Slopes. The Minister of Energy has made it clear that water, wildlife and many other concerns will not be a part of this consultation. The questions listed in the initial survey are limited to coal development and regulation in an attempt to narrow the conversation to how and not if coal is to be developed. The questions also exclude broader themes of environmental values, wilderness protection, water conservation, recreation, tourism, or Treaty rights; all of which are greatly impacted by coal development and should form the foundation of a new land use plan for the Eastern Slopes.  
  4. You don’t need to be a coal expert to participate. The initial survey is designed to discourage participation by leaving the impression that only those who are subject matter experts have a valid opinion, by focusing on the details of the policy and the regulatory process. All Albertans will be impacted in some way by coal development and all Albertans can and should participate in this process.  
  5. It is crucial that Albertans set the terms of this conversation. It is important to use this survey to refocus the conversation and demand that the committee listen to concerns beyond the specifics of coal development. We need to have a conversation about the future of the Eastern Slopes, and it is crucial that Albertans set the terms of this conversation. Fill out the survey today and emphasize that you want a conversation about the planning for the future of the Eastern Slopes, the protection of water and wildlife, the honouring of Treaty rights and the management of the area for all, not one industry.  

Ready to have your voice heard? 

Joan Lawrence


Writer, interpretive planner, climate activist in Treaty 7 territory.