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MLAs vote for rodeo as Alta.’s official sport

Alberta’s legislative assembly has adopted a non-binding motion to have the province declare rodeo as its official sport.

The private members’ motion, introduced Monday by outgoing provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft, was carried with “overwhelming all-party approval” from MLAs during the legislature’s sitting Monday night, according to a Liberal caucus news release Tuesday.

“No other sport carries such a deep connection to our province’s land and wildlife, and that connection has played a huge role in Alberta’s economic growth and cultural development,” Taft, an Edmonton MLA, said in the release.

Taft, who leaves his post as Liberal leader next month, announced Nov. 6 at the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) in Edmonton that he would press ahead with this campaign.

Taft tabled letters in the legislature from Ab Brewster, president of the Central Alberta Rodeo Association, and from Danny Jones, president of the Ponoka Stampede Association, urging MLAs to adopt the motion.

“Rodeo has played a strong role in Alberta’s history, and since the first Calgary Stampede in 1912, this province has been recognized as a centre of rodeo across the world,” Taft said Nov. 6.

While the motion is non-binding, the Liberals said Tuesday that it “puts pressure on the government to adopt rodeo as Alberta’s official sport.”

That said, the motion didn’t pick up unanimous support. Speaking in the legislature, Calgary Tory MLA Jonathan Denis urged MLAs to steer clear of picking one official sport.

He cited Alberta residents’ substantial connections to hockey and football, noting the province’s two NHL and two CFL teams, as well as Calgary’s worldwide prominence as a training centre for speed skating. Those three sports combined have 489 members in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, compared to just 14 from rodeo, he said.

Denis also noted people with physical disabilities cannot participate in rodeo as they can in most other sports, and if the province were to adopt one sport, “we want to adopt a sport… that ideally all Albertans can participate in.”

“A little different”

But Lloyd Snelgrove, the Tory MLA for Vermilion and Lloydminster, defended the motion, arguing that “as Albertans it doesn’t hurt us occasionally to stand up and be a little different from the norm and say ‘Those are all great sports, and there are many great athletes, but very few have the Calgary Stampede and the CFR in the same province.'”

Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld said he would support the motion, though he took a shot at Taft for backing rodeo as the official sport when, as Liberal ag critic, he “kind of likes to attack a little bit about farm safety once in a while.”

Rodeo, Groeneveld said in the legislature, “probably doesn’t lend itself real well to farm safety when you think about it, but that’s the way we do things, and I guess that’s why I defend the farm way of life and common sense,” which he said generally prevails among rodeo competitors.

Nevertheless, he added, “I’m not going to speak against this motion because I think that probably as ag minister that would be kind of a foolish thing to do, to be honest with you.”

Taft, who has previously announced he will step down as Alberta’s Liberal leader, will be replaced through a mail-in vote by party members next month. His replacement will be announced at an event in Calgary Dec. 13.

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