Cyclists on cross-province journey to the oilsands make stop in Edmonton
MARC BENCE/FOR METRO EDMONTON
As a resident of Halifax, Aftab Erfan has a lot of questions about Alberta’s continuing economic boom and the draw it has for thousands of Canadians who’ve moved to the province in hopes of a better life.
Arriving in Edmonton yesterday, she’s been meeting with Albertans for the past month while riding her bicycle across the province with a group of fellow adventure-seekers.
“Alberta is a bit of a mystery right now,” she said, a pile of bikes stacked behind her on the steps of the legislature. “We hear all these horror stories about the rate of growth and people sleeping in tents, so I wanted to finally see it for myself.”
Through the course of their journey, the group has grown from nine to 18 cyclists, picking up riders along the way as they travel from Waterton to Fort MacKay, Alta.
Every day they wake up at 7 a.m., pack up their tents and jump on their bikes, meeting with residents and community leaders along the way in an effort to understand the impact of Alberta’s current economic boom.
“There’s been so many small, unplanned moments where we run into people and we hear a gem of a story,” said Tim Murphy, who travelled from Montreal to organize the trip. “Those would never have happened if we were riding in a car because it’s really the image of a bike that’s a great opener to a conversation with people.”
While the group hasn’t formed an official position on what oilsands development means for Canada, Murphy said southern Alberta residents have been telling them that the pace is unsustainable and needs to be slowed.
They want leadership from elected officials to come up with a plan while looking at the negative impacts of fast-paced development, he said.
“It’s no longer a question for Alberta to decide alone,” he added yesterday, flanked with his fellow riders dressed in white T-shirts and bicycle helmets.
The group is sponsored by the Sierra Youth Coalition, a non-profit environmental agency, and has been documenting their trip with video cameras and their blog, www.tothetarsands.ca.
They will join residents protesting seismic testing on Marie Lake today at a public rally planned at Premier Ed Stelmach’s riding office in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.