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Rodeo as official Alberta sport?

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

The private members’ motion, introduced by outgoing provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft, was carried with “overwhelming all-party approval” from MLAs during the legislature’s sitting Nov. 24, according to a Liberal caucus news release.

“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 said in the release.

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

He tabled letters 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 nonbinding, the Liberals said 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.

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.”

Groeneveld said rodeo “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.”

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