Letter to the Minister of the Environment on Parks Canada

Dear Minister:

I am writing to express my concern regarding the proposed increases in Park’s Canada user fees for 2013.

The $29 million in budget cuts at the Parks Canada Agency have had an impact on the services this agency provides to Canadians. As a result of these cuts, hours of operation have been reduced. Because of these spending cuts and the elimination of more than 600 jobs, ski trails, snowshoe trails and hiking trails are no longer being maintained. This has occurred at Riding Mountain, Prince Albert, Elk Island, Point Pelee and Forillon national parks. At Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, officials with the Friends of Riding Mountain National Park association have advised me that they have observed a 40% drop in the number of skiers, hikers and visitors since the disappearance of certain services. Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia is now closed during the winter and is not accessible to the public. In some cases, such as at Prince Albert National Park and Forillon National Park, trail maintenance is now being handled by volunteers. While it is important to value the work of volunteers, the fact that the Department has relinquished its responsibilities in this way and is cutting back on the services it provides to Canadians is deplorable.

Moreover, entry fee increases will only have the effect of further limiting Canadians’ access to and use of national parks. People will thus be required to pay more, but will receive fewer services. It bears reminding that our national parks constitute a natural heritage that belongs to all Canadians.

The cutbacks in our parks have also had a disastrous effect on the scientific research being conducted as part of conservation efforts. The increase in natural resource development projects, climate change and growing urbanization are exerting tremendous pressure on nature and its biodiversity. Science has a fundamental role to play in this context, and it is vital that we continue to fund research within Parks Canada and other agencies reporting to your department.

These budget cuts and fee hikes at Parks Canada could potentially have consequences for the economy as well. Parks create jobs and stimulate tourism. A study by the Canadian Parks Council demonstrates that an $800-million investment in parks yields a return of $5 billion in economic activity.

I am therefore requesting that park services and funding be restored, and that the decision to increase entry fees and service fees be rescinded in order to preserve the public accessibility of these facilities and to protect the industries and economies that rely on a robust parks system

It is my hope that you will give this matter the attention it deserves.

Anne Minh-Thu Quach, MP                                                                     Beauharnois-Salaberry