Environment Minister claims nine cases of harassment in relation to Bighorn public information sessions

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
January 9, 2019 - 5:42pm

LETHBRIDGE - Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says more than half a dozen complaints of either intimidation, bullying or harassment have been made directly to her office, in relation to the public consultation meetings, and that two complaints to RCMP have resulted in file numbers.

However, there do not appear to be any active investigations into any of the incidents.

Phillips held a news conference at her Lethbridge constituency office Wednesday afternoon, and told reporters that public safety is her first priority.

"This is not ideal. That a tiny minority of people is essentially setting the agenda for what ought to be an open and democratic process. And so that's why this is a fluid situation and we will continue to monitor it and when we are convinced that we have public safety restored and that we can move forward with some of these in-person information sessions, we will act to reinstate them. But first what we need is to be convinced that the public can remain safe."

A statement from Phillips' office last Saturday indicated that four upcoming in-person public information sessions and opportunities for feedback on the plans for eight parks in the Bighorn Country area of the province would be cancelled and tele-conference opportunities would instead take place.

However, United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA Mike Ellis says RCMP said on Tuesday and once again today (Wednesday), that they are not aware of any threats and that Alberta RCMP did not provide any official advice to Alberta Environment and Parks regarding the Bighorn public consultations.

UCP MLA Jason Nixon is also calling for Phillips' resignation. In a Twitter post, Nixon writes, "The minister has torched any possible remaining credibility on the Bighorn file. Nobody will trust a single word she says."

Phillips said during the news conference that UCP actions dismissing the alleged complaints are unacceptable.

"It is a dangerous game to essentially dismiss harassment or intimidation of political opponents. It is a dangerous game to dismiss Albertans who want to engage in a public policy debate. And if they say that they have been intimidated or threatened...to just ascribe that to a conspiracy theory, that's a dangerous road for Jason Kenney's team to go down, and flies in the face of everything Jason Kenney has ever said about respectful dialogue."

She added that the shutdown of the in-person session does not undermine the process and with "reasonable assurance" the in-person sessions will be reinstated, which included securing an appropriate venue, security, and egresses.

Four public tele-conference sessions will now take place in Edmonton, Red Deer, Sundre and Drayton Valley. There is no timeline for reinstating the public in-person meetings and Phillips would not go into specifics on the nature of the alleged incidents reported to her.

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