Last month, construction officially commenced on the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1). I know how much the fight against this project has meant for our community, which is why I chose not to attend the groundbreak ceremony that was held. There is not a single political issue for which I have witnessed such a unanimous outpouring of concern since my election than SR1. I want to assure you that I have been by your side every step of the way. I’ve felt your frustrations about the lack of regard previously given to our communities for how this project would impact them, and about the complete lack of meaningful consultation that had been conducted in five painfully long years. It was as though no provincial government in the past, either PC nor NDP, cared to listen to the people in our communities who were concerned for their livelihoods, air quality, land, community space, and way of life. It was a classic case of rural communities being treated as second-class citizens to the major urban centers. I promised you throughout my 2019 election campaign that I would dedicate my time in office to undoing the past wrongs that were committed surrounding this project. I also promised I would advocate for our new United Conservative government to consider alternatives that could better protect us from future flooding while maintaining the integrity of the communities we love and call home. This meant listening, engaging, and at times, publicly going against my own government and colleagues. My first act upon being elected was to write then Transportation Minister Ric McIver about the project. I then proceeded to bring him and his team to my office in Bragg Creek to meet directly with the affected landowners and the Springbank Community Association for the first time since the project had been announced back in 2013. It is hard to believe that no prior government or minister had taken the time to do so, and while we couldn’t undo their past mistakes, I wanted to ensure we did our part to remedy them and ensure you were heard. I brought the SR1 Concerned Landowner Group, who participated actively in the NRCB hearings on your behalf, to Edmonton to present to all us government MLAs who represent rural communities in southern Alberta. They were given the floor to explain the concerns of our community, and their research on the potential detrimental impacts of the project to our local environment. I tabled nearly 1,100 of your petitions against the project in the Alberta Legislature, which are now permanently on file in the Library. And most importantly, to ensure that as many of you could voice your frustrations, fears, and questions about the dam to the decision makers who matter most, I welcomed several hundred of you to two open-mic townhalls in Springbank and Bragg Creek at which Minister McIver, a project impact assessment specialist, the SR1 project lead from within the Department of Transportation, and the two top engineers responsible for the project from Golder Associates were present to listen, and thoughtfully respond. Because the project was already seven years in the making when our government assumed office, reversing course was unfortunately always unlikely, however I wanted to make sure I fulfilled my promise to you by doing all I could to try, and at minimum, to ensure you were given the dignity of being heard, considered, and answered. While the final outcome may not be what we hoped for, I hope that with all said and done, you feel as though you were.
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