Manitoba’s failing direction for parks and trails
Conservation missteps during COVID-19 have Manitobans lost in the woods
WINNIPEG (Treaty 1 Territory and Homeland of the Métis Nation) — This week Pallister’s government took another two giant steps towards park privatization when Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard allowed Travel Manitoba to hire private consultants to tell the government how to manage parks. At the same time, the government launched an online trails survey looking for ways to monetize trail use in the province.
“A disaster is unfolding for Manitoba’s parks and trails as this Progressive Conservative government hires private consultants to direct our parks, muses over ways to monetize nature trails and ignores the rights of Indigenous communities,” said Wilderness and Water Campaigner Eric Reder.
Guillemard’s engagement of private consultants directly undermines the knowledgeable conservation and climate staff who’ve been managing these parks for decades. They’re already dealing with understaffing and underfunding that will continue when these new high-paid consultants commandeer their important work for a money-making scheme.
“Privatization always results in the loss of institutional knowledge our public servants should be building up,” said Reder. “Privatizing the caring for nature that makes our very life on this planet possible is utterly irresponsible.”
The government’s new online trails survey poses, in question 30, in which ways people would be more comfortable paying for additional user fees. There’s no option to select “none of the above” or “the government should fund trail improvement for the benefit of public health and wellness.”
“The expansion of parks services and human-powered trail systems in Manitoba is crucial and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Reder. “The survey is another sure sign the government doesn’t understand a majority of Manitobans want to grow parks, protected areas and trails — a priority similar to health care and education. Allowing a conservative austerity program for trails and parks is a government failure.”
Adding insult to injury, these privatization strategies ignore the Indigenous communities whose land parks and trails are established on, in favour of corporate profits. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous communities.
“Parks, protected areas and trails offer a tool for settlers and newcomers to work on reconciliation and ensure Indigenous communities are making decisions regarding their lands and waters,” said Reder. “We need a vision that decolonizes parks, protected areas and trails, increases funding, preserves biodiversity and defends the climate. And we need it now before the pandemic driven rush of next summer’s outdoor season.”
The Wilderness Committee is calling for the establishment of a special deputy minister to immediately take charge of protected areas, parks and trails discussions with the 63 First Nations in the province.
For more information, please contact:
Eric Reder | Wilderness and Water Campaigner
204 997 8584, email@example.com