The Alberta government has begun enforcing a pass for visitors to the popular Kananaskis Country mountain parks, but the NDP Opposition says it will scrap the fee if the party wins next year’s election.
Leader Rachel Notley says having to pay $15 a day or $90 a year for personal vehicles is unfair to lower-income people and their families.
“These parks, they belong to all Albertans, and we won’t put up barriers or Albertans, regardless of their income, to experiencing this outdoor gem,” Ms. Notley said Friday.
“If [Albertans] elect an NDP government, we will repeal the Kananaskis pass and make sure K-Country is open and accessible to all.”
The fee was introduced a year ago with an extended grace period, but Environment Department spokesman Paul Hamnett said Friday the pass is now being enforced.
Staff will be scanning licence plates and issuing $150 tickets to anyone who doesn’t have the proper pass and who is not exempt from payment as are area residents and recipients of Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.
The United Conservative government says the pass has generated $13.3 million, all of which is to be reinvested in the region.
It says the money has been used to hire more conservation officers, upgrade and operate facilities – including information centres and the Canmore Nordic Centre – groom trails and cover other expenditures.
Notley said an NDP government would continue to fund improvements.
In the meantime, she said, more clarity is needed to determine if current payouts are the promised upgrades or are simply fulfilling already scheduled budget increases.
“We have no way of knowing what they’re announcing these days are in fact incremental increases in investment to the park or in fact whether it’s just business as usual,” said Ms. Notley.
Environment Minister Jason Nixon introduced the fee a year ago. He said it was to pay for maintenance and wear-and-tear in the increasingly popular 4,200-square-kilometre wilderness area made up of several provincial parks west of Calgary.
The area gets about five million visitors a year. The government said the pass helps to keep on top of the influx, to enforce rules and to clean garbage from hiking trails.
The provincial election is scheduled for May 29, 2023.