No consult needed: parks aren’t for profit
The provincial parks we know and love and visited in record numbers this past summer are under threat again.
The Manitoba government has posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) looking for a consultant to examine 76 Manitoba provincial parks and build a business case for parks while examining privatization and divestment — and perhaps building amusement parks.
The WIlderness Committee warned of this in March when changes to the Provincial Parks Act were passed under cover of a pandemic, but most folks thought it was only about park passes and it couldn’t possibly be any more. Here is the text in the mandate letter to the new conservation and climate minister from March 3, 2020.
Private investment is for profit. It’s that simple, and here it is in black and white from the premier’s office. But the reality remains: parks are not a business!
Can you imagine asking a corporation to come in and start profiting from the view on a hiking trail? It’s like making money off the fact that someone who has fallen needs healthcare. Or off teaching an 8-year-old kid math.
Nature, health care and education are public services that provide for our wellbeing — they don’t need to be profitable to be important. We pay taxes so these things are cared for and available to all.
A ludicrous request for proposal
Most of this RFP talks about monetizing parks, divesting from parks and suggests looking for park services to privatize. This is the wrong direction for parks. Parks are for nature, for biodiversity, for combatting the climate crisis and for keeping us healthy.
Furthermore, this RFP could not be more insulting to the conservation staff who spent years trying to keep Manitoba parks together while understaffed and underfunded. After a hellish summer where they bore the brunt of this government’s sloppy park pass privatization scheme, they’ll now be pestered by a high-paid consultant about details on the facilities and management of 76 provincial parks. This RFP is a waste of money — money that conservation staff could use with their existing institutional knowledge to do real, tangible good for our parks.
This RFP shouldn’t distract us from the real problem: the government has a responsibility to care for and expand parks and protected areas — and they refuse to do it. Science tells us we need more parks and protected areas because biodiversity is what protects human society in this time of natural crisis. But Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government continues to fail us by every metric available.
We recently reported on massive cuts to conservation staff, which includes the Fisheries and Wildlife branch being moved away from Conservation and Climate and into Resource Management, with funding and service shortfalls that don’t keep pace with our population. But this is the abandonment of our parks on a whole different level. This is the thinking of a long-gone era, an action that puts Pallister firmly in the group of anti-science ideologues like Doug Ford, Jason Kenny and Donald Trump.
Manitoba parks and natural areas will see an unprecedented number of people next summer.— Eric Reder🌱 (@EricReder) October 20, 2020
A major investment of funding and staff to grow parks services and new wilderness destinations is critical right now.
Doing any less will be a gov. failure. https://t.co/tggn12fJLK#mbpoli
Vision and leadership
We need to put forward a vision for parks in Manitoba, we need action beyond keeping our heads above water while flooded with conservative cuts from Pallister’s government.
We need to understand the wonder that is Manitou Ahbee, the Anishinaabe word for ‘the place where the creator sits.’ There is more wilderness in Manitoba than in most countries in the world. We have been gifted a great responsibility and the unfortunate truth is that wilderness cannot be created — it can only be destroyed.
Our vision for Manitoba is that it remains a wild and rich province. For this to happen we need more protected areas, more Indigenous land guardians educating on and preserving their territories, more human-powered trails and natural places to visit. We need more accessible parks services to accommodate healthy doses of nature in all our lives.
A pandemic, a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis mean we all need nature more than ever. Now’s the time to rise as a province, including the First Nations whose territory provincial parks occupy, and make Manitoba a bastion for the protection of biodiversity.
We can be leaders on nature and parks and I believe a majority of Manitobans want to be.
Please write a letter