Wildrose Blooms in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Now What?

Written by Chris Klassen & Michael Tyas

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, joined by Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo candidate Tany Yao, tells supporters he will make the creation of an Aging in Place facility at Willow Square his top priority during a press conference in Fort McMurray. April 10, 2015. VINCENT MCDERMOTT

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean (right), and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao. April 10, 2015. VINCENT MCDERMOTT

Tany Yao, a Fort McMurray resident for almost 40 years, has won the 2015 by-election for Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo. Yao represents the Alberta Wildrose Party, which promised to ensure that all energy extraction leaves the environment and individual property just as healthy and clean as it was before the activity.”

That sounds nice, but what about parts of the natural environment that are distanced from direct exposure to the extractive industry? What about damages that occur far downstream? What about a commitment to preserving livelihoods that aren’t dependent on ‘individual property’, but on traditional territory and healthy ecosystems?

The overall victors, Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party, ended election night with a majority government. Their campaign offered at least vague commitments to not hand over Alberta’s resources to corporate bodies as easily as government had in the past. Reviews of the energy royalties paid to the province are among the indicators that the provincial NDP may lead in a way that balances the freedom of the energy industry with concern for the well-being and benefit of the province’s land and people.

All who may be hopeful must keep in mind, though, that if the culture of the relationship between government, the Oil Sands industry, and those who depend on the Peace – Athabasca River Delta is to change, compromises will have to be made. These may include First Nations leasing parts of traditional territories, companies paying higher IBA (Impact Benefit Agreements), the willpower to decline higher profits for the benefit of strong environmental protections, and negotiating with B.C. over destructive dams on the Peace River that adversely regulate flows.

Perhaps we should send a copy of the documentary One River Many Relations to each of the parties elected this past Tuesday to give them a jump-start on good policies, eh?

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About Michael Tyas

Michael Tyas is the managing editor of One River News. He graduated the University of Manitoba with an honours degree in environmental studies, and is a professional videographer and video trainer. He produced the feature length documentary "One River, Many Relations" in Fort Chipewyan. He continues to work with indigenous communities to share their stories around resource extraction, industrial development, and impacts on traditional territories.
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