PC’s review of parks profitability coming soon
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2022 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s provincial parks have been ranked for their potential to turn a profit and the results are finally ready to be released to the public.
Parks Minister Jeff Wharton said Tuesday that findings of a sustainability review, commissioned by the Progressive Conservative government nearly two years ago, will be shared at an upcoming announcement.
Manitoba-based firm Meyers Norris Penny was hired in December 2020 to rank the most profitable parks in the province, identify assets for divestment, and pinpoint parks that could be decommissioned or operated or owned by third parties.
“Stay tuned,” Wharton told reporters when pressed on the status of the consultant’s report, which was submitted to government in early summer. “We’re very excited about the great things that are happening with our parks and I can share with Manitobans that it will be coming very soon.”
The provincial government has come under fire from critics for failing to publish the study, which will include recommendations for a new provincial parks strategy.
The opposition has argued the review was skewed toward increasing private sector delivery of parks services.
“If the report is complete, there really is no excuse to not make it public,” NDP environment critic Lisa Naylor said Tuesday.
The Tory government has a history of out-sourcing services previously delivered by government staff, including hiring a Texas-based firm to sell park passes, the Wolseley MLA said.
Concerns about privatization have not been addressed by the PCs, who have repeatedly said provincial parks are not for sale, Naylor said
“We have to be really thoughtful about finding that balance around providing services,” Naylor said. “That may be a fee-for-service that can be reinvested into parks versus a fee-for-service that ends up going to a private company and is no longer available to help invest in the future.”
Changes could be as small as privatizing firewood sales and as significant as delegating campground and security operations to private businesses, Naylor said.
“We should always be cautious about any decisions that means that there’s less money to invest in parks,” Naylor said.
The Tory government also asked the consultant to determine where the private sector, municipalities and First Nations could partner with the province to add to or improve park infrastructure.
The turnover of land to Indigenous communities may have value and be appropriate based on reconciliation, Naylor said, but drew a line at the decommissioning of parks or transfer to private ownership.
“I really need to see the report and see what the intention is behind any of these recommendations,” she said.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont argued provincial parks do not exist to generate profit for the government.
“There have been virtually no investments in parks, in some cases, for 50 years, but the solution is not to just sell them off,” the St. Boniface MLA said. “This is about offloading costs onto somebody else for parks that are supposed to belong to everyone.”
Wharton reiterated his government’s position that “parks are not for sale,” when asked if the province is considering more private involvement in the operation of its green spaces.
“We know we have, and have for many years, had partnerships with stakeholders throughout our parks. That’s part of a vibrant experience I think park-goers want to see, and we’re going to continue to ensure that we’re listening to Manitobans and deliver on that,” the MLA for Red River North said.
“We know that COVID has taught us one thing: it’s taught us that our parks are so, so much more important than they may have been pre-COVID, so we know we need to get it right.”
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.