CALGARY -- An Alberta MLA is hoping to wrangle up enough support to make rodeo the province's official sport.

Muhammad Yaseen, the UCP MLA for Calgary-North, introduced a private members' bill to recognize rodeo as Alberta's official sport.

"Rodeo is an important thread in the rich cultural fabric of our province," Yaseen told a legislative committee Monday.

He said rodeo communities across the province have been devastated by event cancellations caused by COVID-19 and the designation would provide a much-needed boost.

"I was deeply saddened that the iconic Calgary Stampede had to be cancelled last year," Yaseen said.

"This bill will be a beacon of hope for Albertans as we make our way through another challenging year."

Some political pundits question the timing of the proposal, with the bill coming days after a deficit budget and during a pandemic.

"I don't know why someone thought this was a good idea to bring it forward," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University.

"It may have been done in the spirit of inclusiveness, but it's actually a very divisive issue and I think it's going to inflame tensions across the country."

One reason it's divisive, Bratt says, is because rodeo is regularly criticized by animal rights groups. During the 2019 Calgary Stampede, six horses were euthanized following injuries sustained during chuck wagon races.

"I think it's completely inappropriate that Alberta is making this cruel sport a provincial sport considering the vast amounts of suffering it causes to innocent horses and cows every year," said Camille Labchuk, the executive director of the group Animal Justice.

This is not the first time Alberta has considered designating rodeo as its provincial sport. A private members' bill introduced by outgoing Liberal leader Kevin Taft passed in 2008, but the motion was not binding.

Becoming Alberta's official sport does not come with any additional specific funding.

Public and industry feedback will be gathered on Yaseen's bill before it can move to full debate in the legislature.