Public Values

Jasper National Park could be privatized

Project would establish a dangerous 'parks-for-profit' precedent — Green Party.

May: Canadian National Parks are not meant to be money-makers.OTTAWA, ON, January 9, 2012: Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives are set to allow the partial privatization of Jasper National Park by an American-owned company, which might blast into the mountainside to construct a 300-metre long walkway and charge park visitors for a view that is currently free.

"I was shocked to learn that a private American company would be allowed to privatize a viewpoint in Jasper National Park," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. The Green Party has adopted the position that since the first priority of Canada's National Parks is to protect ecological integrity, theme-park-like developments are inappropriate.

"This project sets a damaging precedent of using our parks for profit and in the process putting sensitive species at risk," said May.

Now the subject of public outrage, a "Glacier Discovery Walk" is being proposed for a section of Jasper National Park, consisting of a metal walkway over the Icefields Parkway. The project is proposed by American-owned Brewster Canada. Environmental groups are concerned about the insufficient data on how such a project would affect mountain goats and other species.

  "Protection of our ecosystems is worth investing in, especially as the climate is changing."

"Canada's National Parks are not meant to be money-makers," said May. "They are primarily supposed to protect a range of ecosystems and to allow Canadians to appreciate the wonderful natural spaces and wildlife that we are so lucky to have in this country."

Section 8(2) of the Canada National Parks Act makes "maintenance of restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks".

There has been a trend within Parks Canada to allocate budgets away from resource conservation into visitor experience. In 2007, $167 million was spent on visitor experience, rising to $225 million in 2010. Money for ecological integrity is now decreasing: $214 million in 2007 was cut to $192.6 million in 2010. Overall, Parks Canada's budget has been cut by almost 25 percent in the last 17 years.

"Both the federal government and Parks Canada must realize that protection of our ecosystems is worth investing in, especially as the climate is changing," said May.

Links and sources
  National Parks should be wildlife sanctuaries, not cash cows

Posted: January 18, 2012

  Public services
  Natural resources

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