Banff-Kananaski MLA Sarah Elmeligi condemns the Alberta government's conflicted land-use practices in Kananaskis Country and reiterated the call to eliminate the Kananaskis Conservation Pass (KCP).

In a press conference coinciding with the May Long Weekend, Elmeligi criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the use of the revenue generated from the passes and argued it is an unnecessary burden upon Albertans, whom she said faced the highest inflation rate of all Canadians in 2023.

The pass was launched on June 1, 2021 by then Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon as a means to improve the overall experience of visitors, pay for trail maintenance, search and rescue operations, visitors services and the upkeep of campgrounds and day-use areas.

In October 2021, Nixon reported it had already generated 10 million and was on track to hit its $15 million target by the end of the fiscal year. He outlined where the funds generated were being used.

READ: Kananaskis passes generate over $10 million

That outlook proved overly optimistic when the province announced revenue was $12 million in 2021-22. In March 2023, officials said the pass generated $11 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year without providing details on how the revenue was being utilized.

"With the Kananaskis Pass, one of the biggest issues is that all of that money raised goes into general revenue and that makes it very difficult to track exactly how those Kananaskis pass dollars are being allocated back into Kananaskis," said Elmeligi. "That's always been one of my issues with the Kananaskis Pass."

She says it should be eliminated and that all parks should be publicly funded. By doing so, she says there would be a little bit more accountability and transparency.

Elmeligi said Danielle Smith was in favour of revoke the pass leading up to her election as leader of the UCP. She produced a video of Smith speaking of how it was one issue both she and NDP leader Rachel Notley agreed upon.

"Kananaskis was always supposed to be that open access place for Albertans," stated Smith in the video. "They actually used to have preference access even to the golf course for Albertans. The idea that we are going to improve things and improve the access by charging--what it is, a $90 access--that effects families at a time when everything's going up for families, so I agree with you (Rachel Notley).

In December 2022, she changed her tune, and instead called upon Todd Loewen, minister of Forestry, Parks and Tourism to review of the pass.

No update has been provided at this point by the province.

"This broken promise isn't just about affordability," says Elmeligi,"It's also about transparency and this government's reckless mismanagement of the land Albertans love so much. Myself and my colleagues in the Alberta NDP are calling on Danielle Smith and the UCP to finally revoke the Kananaskis Conservation Pass and properly plan and fund the conservation and land use development of this important area."

Elmeligi's concern over the management of K-Country runs much deeper. than the pass. It's how land has been designated to both the forest industry for logging and recreational users for trail development.

"This has created a mess of user conflict, upset communities, upset recreationists, and the UCP has just walked away from the mess that they created. I have received hundreds of emails from constituents who are both concerned and thoroughly confused as to why they are paying $90 for a conservation pass to protect and upgrade trails when those same areas had already been slated for logging. "The UCP's left hand clearly doesn't know what the right hand is doing, and this is a clear example of the UCP's incompetence and lack of forethought in being able to balance resource development and land use planning."

Elmeligi says she's paying close attention to the implementation of the South Saskatchewan regional plan that's up for renewal.

"I'm interested in when the minister will announce that renewal or review process of that plan," she says, "and then making sure that we implement it and adhere to it. There is clear guidance in the Social Saskatchewan regional plan, but we don't often refer to it and implement it where it says the Eastern Slopes is really about headwaters, for example. So, how are we reflecting that in land use decisions?"

When introduced, a single day KCP for personal use was $15 per day or $90 annually for two vehicles. The daily fee is now for a single vehicle while the annual fee covers three vehicles. There are two levels of commercial fees.