Assault on parks under Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government
Stunning slashes in staff numbers mirror service and funding failures
WINNIPEG, Treaty One Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation – Newly released staff numbers show the government’s Conservation and Climate Department has been devastated with a more than 40 per cent cut under Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government, mirroring the inadequate funding and services found in provincial parks. The Wilderness Committee has assembled a State of Provincial Parks Snapshot and found it far worse than they had realized.
“I am horrified and outraged at the abuse, mistreatment, mishandling and desecration of the Conservation and Climate Department staff under Pallister’s government,” said Wilderness and Water Campaigner Eric Reder. “I’ve seen on the ground that parks are suffering from industrial destruction, I just hadn’t realized the depth of destruction to the conservation team tasked with caring for our wilderness.”
Manitoba’s Civil Service Commission released their annual report on Tuesday, showing staff decrease in the Conservation and Climate Department from 941 full-time equivalent staff positions in 2016 to 554 in 2020 — almost half the staff team. The remaining staff still need to care for our environment but undoubtedly won’t accomplish as much.
“The province didn’t get smaller over the past four years, but it sure got more neglected,” said Reder. “This is an ideological cut to the protection of nature and wilderness at a time when the climate and biodiversity crises require it the most. That’s unacceptable."
Other measures further illustrate provincial park neglect in the State of Provincial Parks Snapshot:
- While our population increased by 19 per cent between 2006 and 2020, there were zero new provincial campgrounds.
- Conservation and Climate Department funding increase of just 2 per cent after adjustment for inflation, not keeping pace with our population increase.
- At 11 per cent protected area, Manitoba hasn’t reached their 2000 goal, and refuses to commit to the 17 per cent and now 30 per cent goal the rest of the planet is aiming for. Manitoba needs a parks and protected areas goal that matches international scientific calls, in accordance with the wishes of the 63 First Nations whose territory we live on.
“A global pandemic has served to remind us how much we need nature. We need more parks and protected areas, more campgrounds, and more human-powered trails and backcountry destinations,” said Reder. “For that, we need a larger conservation budget and staff complement.”
For more information please contact:
Eric Reder | Wilderness and Water Campaigner
State of Provincial Parks Snapshot:
The decline in care for nature and our parks can be seen in four ways:
Parks and protected areas
Manitoba is now at 11.1 per cent lands protected, falling short of reaching our outdated 2000 goal of 12 per cent protected areas. In 2010 the world set a target of 17 per cent of lands protected by 2020. While Canada has signed on to this goal, Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government refused. More recently scientists and advocates of the UN Convention on Biodiversity have stated we need to protect 30 per cent of the planet by 2030.
The Manitoba population in the 2006 census was 1,148,401. In 2020 Statistics Canada estimates it increased by 19 per cent to 1,364,400. And the increase to the number of new park campgrounds during that time? Zero.
Conservation and Climate Department funding
Funding for the Conservation and Climate Department in 2006 was $114 million. In 2020 it was $145 million. That’s an increase difference of 27 per cent, however cumulative inflation during that same period in Canada was 25 per cent. Our parks funding is barely keeping pace with inflation, never mind the population.
Conservation and Climate Department staffing
In 2016 the Conservation and Climate Department had 941 full-time equivalent staff positions. In 2020 that number decreased to 554, a 41 per cent decrease. This includes all of the Wildlife staff and Fisheries staff—235 positions—who no longer work for Conservation but instead now work for Resource Development.
The Wilderness Committee is calling for the government to commit to more parks and protected areas with campgrounds, an increase in human-powered trails with backcountry destinations and a larger parks budget and staff.