Concerns Mount That Alberta is Reducing Fish and Wildlife Spending

Finance minister Joe Ceci delivers Alberta’s March 2017 budget

Budget Trouble

AFGA worries that provincial government is unresponsive to needs of anglers and hunters

Is there an anti-fishing and hunting element in the Alberta government? For the answer, you need only look at the March 2017 budget, says Martin Sharren, executive vice-president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association. “The whole budget was $54.9 billion, and anything to do with fish and wildlife was $44 million, or .08 per cent,” he says.

According to Sharren, the lack of money earmarked for fish and wildlife is evidence of the government’s troubling priorities. “We’re concerned that there’s less and less importance being given to fish and wildlife and the consumptive user.”

Included in the budgeted amount is support for woodland caribou management and recovery, and the containment and management of whirling disease, which was recently detected in the province. Those two items alone could easily use up the entire fish and wildlife budget, a recent AFGA press release states.

Finance minister Joe Ceci delivers Alberta’s March 2017 budget
Finance minister Joe Ceci delivers Alberta’s March 2017 budget

Sharren warns that the shrinking resources could translate into big problems in terms of poaching, as well as pressure on fish and game. “There are more people and more pressure, but less enforcement,” he says. Indeed, the number of conservation officers has decreased over the last decade and, as officers retire, they’re generally not being replaced.

To discuss these pressing issues, Sharren says the AFGA has been trying to arrange a meeting with Shannon Phillips, minister of Alberta Environment and Parks, but has so far been unsuccessful. “She doesn’t even acknowledge our existence, which is in stark contrast to previous governments,” he says. “The bureaucrats understand fish and wildlife, they’re biologists, but politicians are elected and their number one job is to get re-elected.”

Sharren says he thinks part of the reason for the government’s unsympathetic ear is the geographic makeup of the legislative assembly. “When you look at where the elected government members come from,” he says, “they tend to be urban, or at the very least have an urban mindset.”

Learn more about the AFGA’s programs and positions at

Bob Sexton

Bob Sexton

Growing up in Gander, Newfoundland, and Peterborough, Ontario, Outdoor Canada's managing editor Bob Sexton jumped at every chance to wet a line and head afield. After spending half of the 1990s working as a tour guide in Latin America, he completed a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in 2001 and was hired on as Outdoor Canada's assistant editor. Since joining the magazine, he has won two Outdoor Writers of Canada awards, in 2008 and 2011, and contributed to numerous National Magazine Award winning or nominated stories. Sexton is the past president of the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors.

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