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Hello, Halt the Hik-ers. My name is Olivia Labelle and I am a Member of the Climate Action Coalition at the University of Alberta. The Climate Action Coalition supports wholeheartedly the opposition to tuition hikes because well-educated citizens and the research that universities and colleges provide are critical to responding effectively to the climate crisis and all of the related problems we face.

The Climate Action Coalition was formed in February 2020 to bring together students, faculty, and staff who want their university to truly lead in responding to the climate emergency.

  • We advocate for greater investment in interdisciplinary research and curriculum related to the climate crisis.
  • We demand that our university divest from fossil fuels.
  •  We support the call to the Students’ Union to stop banking with Canada’s biggest financier of fossil fuel extraction: the Royal Bank of Canada.
  • We want to see university research collaborations with all sectors of Alberta’s society, implementing climate solutions.
  • We want administrators to filter all decisions about operations and facilities and land use through the filter of ecological sustainability.
  • We want the university’s decisions in every sphere to be consistent with decolonization.
  • We want this university to mobilize all of its resources to help fight for our future.

We are in the midst of a historically unprecedented global upheaval of every aspect of human existence. We are shifting from globalized fossil capitalism to what is still a contested future–one we hope will be net zero carbon and will prevent a global temperature rise beyond the 2C that is already locked in. If not, our lives will be filled with pandemics, extreme weather, mass migration, political unrest… The list goes on.

We deserve the chance to avoid this future, don’t we? DON’T WE?

Tuition hikes deny us the opportunities we deserve to fight the crisis that our generation has inherited. We are being denied the opportunity to participate in building the Alberta of the future to our full potential.

Tuition hikes deny us the opportunities we deserve to fight the crisis that our generation has inherited. We are being denied the opportunity to participate in building the Alberta of the future to our full potential.

Our universities and colleges have all the resources needed to help Albertans make this leap, working with Indigenous knowledge holders and citizens.

  • The biggest obstacles to effective action to stop global warming are not technological but political. How can we make our governments accountable to citizens and future generations? Education and research in the arts and sciences play essential roles in forming educated citizens who understand what is at stake and what needs to be done. Citizens who can distinguish between credible sources of knowledge and misinformation. Citizens who can critically assess policy responses to the crisis. And citizens who can push for the needed reforms of our democratic institutions–from our electoral system to the regulation of media.
  • Science, Business, Arts, Law, Agriculture, Environmental Science, and Engineering students will help to phase out our economic dependence on the extraction and export of fossil fuels and make a rapid transition to a post-carbon economy that provides sustainable livelihoods and income security
  • Agriculture, Engineering, Arts, Business, Kinesiology and Environmental Science, students will aid in designing and (re)building urban environments to rely on public transit, be bike and pedestrian-friendly, make buildings more energy efficient, build affordable, zero-carbon housing, create urban forests, and so much more . . .
  • Agriculture and Environmental Science and Science students will aid in growing food production using ecological methods and in ways that protect and restore biodiversity
  • Education, Arts, Medicine, Kinesiology, Nursing and Law students will aid in improving access to human services like health care, child care, elder care, social welfare, and education while improving the quality and working conditions of these services
  • Indigenous studies, Law and Arts students will aid indigenous groups in transferring land back to First Nations so that they can develop viable, self-governed economies that provide for their people’s needs, decolonizing our laws, institutions, and culture
  • Arts and Law students will aid in addressing the root causes of crime, violence, homelessness, and addictions
  • Graduate students will aid in engaging citizens in planning; researching policy options, e.g., for better public health care
  • Science, Agriculture and Environmental Science students will aid in developing the scientific knowledge needed for environmental monitoring in many areas.

Our government and post-secondary executives must Halt the Hikes and reverse them, so that young Albertans will have the resources we need to make this leap to an ecologically sustainable future.

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We can save Alberta’s scenic high country

by Kevin van Tighem, naturalist and writer, resident of southwest Alberta

In a confidential meeting with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce during the last Alberta provincial election campaign, Jason Kenney described his strategy for implementing a far-right exploitation agenda. He said the plan was to overwhelm any opposition by bringing in massive policy changes as fast as possible. And that is exactly what he has done.
The power of that approach is that it both confuses people and makes them feel overwhelmed and helpless. So they retreat into despair, and those who profit from extracting value from the public purse, the work of others and the environment win. But it’s a tactic based on overwhelming our senses, not on real power. In a democracy like ours, real power is distributed across many levels of government and many groups of people. And we can still tap into it to defend our province from those who would suck it dry and then discard it.
The coal mining assault on the Eastern Slopes is a case in point. We are meant to feel that there is nothing we can do to stop strip mines from opening, one after another, from Crowsnest Pass to Grande Cache, in the scenic headwaters of our prairie rivers. We’re supposed to go down without a fight as the habitats of native trout and the homes of bighorn sheep, alpine forget-me-nots and golden eagles get reduced to rubble in order to send coal to be burnt in foreign steel mills. But we have the power to keep our mountains free of coal strip-mines.
I and others have been encouraging concerned Albertans to write to the Premier and our so-called Minister of Environment and Parks with their objections. That’s still a good idea, because it does ensure that they know that their voters actually care about our home place enough to protest bad policy. But we need to be realistic: this is a government with a far-right ideology. They truly believe in what they are doing. We are not going to convince them to change course.
On the other hand, they have done almost everything they can to alienate the federal government and to let the ruling Liberals know that there’s little hope of winning seats in Alberta. Ironically, this could help Albertans who care deeply about our Eastern Slopes to persuade Ottawa to stand on guard for us and the places we love.
Provincial and federal governments alike have a duty, under our Constitution, to consult with First Nations whose rights are affected by major changes to land use policy. When Alberta arbitrarily revoked its Coal Policy — one that was originally put in place by Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservative government after extensive consultation — they consulted only with the coal industry. They are in breach of their Constitutional duty to respectfully consult Indigenous people. The federal government has a direct interest in that.
Almost all the current coal mining proposals affect the breeding habitat of species protected by law under the federal Species At Risk Act. These include Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Limber and Whitebark Pines, and Grizzly Bear. The province has submitted draft recovery plans for cutthroat trout and grizzly that are clearly substandard and they expect the federal government to rubber stamp those plans — even while instituting a policy that is intended to facilitate strip-mining of critical habitats. The federal government has a duty to protect those species.
The Government of Canada and Alberta are subject to international agreements to reduce greenhouse gases. This is an urgent priority in the face of our ongoing climate crisis. Burning coal releases stored carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Coal mined in Alberta might be burned in China, Japan or India, but there is only one atmosphere: we don’t get to play Pontius Pilate on this. The federal government has a duty to consider the impact of major new initiatives on our ability to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains provide more than 80% of all the river water in the arable regions of prairie Canada. Water security is a critical strategic issue for this country, given the importance of irrigation agriculture and prairie towns and cities, and the costs of flood-relief and drought-relief programs. Coal strip mining destroys the surface hydrology of headwater basins and releases soluble toxins like selenium into ground and surface water. Existing coal mines in BC and near Hinton have failed to find a way to keep those toxins out of rivers and in fact more than 90% of the threatened west slope cutthroat trout population recently died in the Fording River because of coal mine pollution. Water security is a federal concern.
So the Federal government has jurisdictional responsibilities that are affected both by individual coal mine proposals and by the Alberta government’s decision to open up formerly protected Coal Policy zone 2 lands to new strip mining. The Federal government has both the responsibility and the power to intervene — and no political reason to avoid intervening.
We need to tell them this.
And we need to ask them to impose a solution. The simplest solution? Federal legislation dictating that ANY new coal mine proposals in Canada, including expansion proposals for existing coal mines, will henceforth be subject to a formal review under the federal Impact Assessment Act. With no exceptions.
This would ensure full scrutiny of all environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, and full consideration of government duty to consult with affected Indigenous communities. It would mean that species at risk don’t get swept under the rug. And it would guarantee all Canadians an open, transparent and accessible process for citizens to intervene against bad decisions.
No less important: it would scare away a lot of investors, because they would be dealing with the kind of investment risks — i.e. full-cost accounting — that the Kenney government is trying to help them avoid. Mining investors prefer to deal with desperate third-world governments than with ones that hold investors fully accountable, because they don’t want to pay to clean up their messes or live with the damage they cause.
We CAN save our Eastern Slopes. This is one fight we can win, but citizens need to convince our federal Cabinet to step up to the plate. If you have visited the places that are now at risk, or even if you just think water security and endangered species matter, it should be pretty clear that this is one fight we have to win.
So here are some key Cabinet Ministers to whom you should send your thoughts and suggestions. Please feel free to borrow from any of the points raised above:
Prime Minister. Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau –
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Hon. Chrystia Freeland –
Environment and Climate Change Minister. Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson –
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister. Hon. Carolyn Bennett –
Finance Minister. Hon. Bill Morneau –
Agriculture and Agri-food Minister. Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau –
Infrastructure and Communities Minister. Hon. Catherine McKenna –
Minister of Health. Hon. Patty Hajdu –
Minister of Natural Resources. Hon. Seamus O’Regan –
Minister of Indigenous Services. Hon. Marc Miller –
Minister of Canadian Heritage, Hon. Steven Guilbeault –