Manitoba pays $528K to U.S. firm for park pass system
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/04/2022 (283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba government has paid a Texas company more than $1 million to sell provincial park permits since it switched to an online retail system two years ago.
Documents obtained by the NDP through freedom of information show Aspira of Dallas was paid $528,071 from April 2021 to January 2022.
The company was contracted in 2020 to sell park vehicle permits online; the price of permits also increased with the new system, with a fee of $4.50 tacked on to each pass to cover hosting and maintaining the site and operating a toll-free number.
In its first year, the province paid Aspira $558,145 to sell its park passes, bringing the total expense for the service to $1,086,216 to date.
Prior to the Aspira deal, Manitobans could buy annual vehicle passes at Liquor Marts, gas stations, convenience stores and other retail locations, or at park gates. Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, third-party commissions for vehicle permits cost the government an average of $53,020 a year, the documents show.
NDP environment critic Lisa Naylor said while the former system needed to be modernized, the new system is costing the province 10 times as much, with all money heading stateside.
“I certainly think we could look at implementing a system in Manitoba where we are providing good jobs for Manitobans to do that same kind of work that’s happening out of Texas right now,” Naylor said.
“We also need to look at the price point. For a day pass, it’s double the cost for people,” she said. “The government might have been trying to streamline and modernize the system, but they’ve made a big mistake here.”
Parks Minister Jeff Wharton said his government is pleased with its spending on provincial parks and applauded the department’s work to improve the reservation system.
“We are committed to fixing that system,” Wharton said, noting a new reservation platform will be online by next year.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.