Businesses left holding Parks Canada hot potato

Businesses left holding Parks Canada hot potato On May 9, Yukon's MP proclaimed that the Parks Canada cuts "wouldn't affect the tourism industry" and that anyone who claimed otherwise was "fear-mongering." Ryan Leef didn't consult the Tourism Industry A

On May 9, Yukon’s MP proclaimed that the Parks Canada cuts “wouldn’t affect the tourism industry” and that anyone who claimed otherwise was “fear-mongering.”

Ryan Leef didn’t consult the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon before he made this statement, so we met with him on May 22 and again on August 13 to impress upon him the major toll these cuts would actually have on the Yukon.

We contacted his office numerous times over the fall for updates but received no new information until Nov. 20, when he told us that he had recently met with officials on this issue.

Leef has said that finding a solution to the Parks Canada cuts was a “personal priority” for him and promised good news at the end of February. Yet last week’s announcement of the transition of S.S. Klondike and Dredge No. 4 tours to the private sector was something that Parks Canada would have likely initiated anyways; it was something that TIAY had started discussing with the industry in December as a possible last resort when we still saw little progress being made in Ottawa.

These cuts were announced a year ago, so why are businesses only now being called upon by the federal government, two months before the start of the 2013 season?

We also have yet to hear how the elimination of the entire curatorial and conservation unit which cared for the approximately 250,000 artifacts and documents in the Yukon will be addressed. Leef said that these items would remain in the Yukon and that this in itself was a small victory – but there was never any plan to remove these treasures from the territory.

If Mr. Leef could have secured temporary federal funding to get Parks Canada Yukon through the 2013 season, Yukon’s tourism stakeholders could have set up a plan for 2014 that would have given the private sector time to prepare. TIAY would have commended Mr. Leef for this.

If he had been able to find funding to have the Yukon Parks Canada collections unit fully reinstated, TIAY would have acknowledged his efforts. Even if he had taken a conciliatory tone with what was announced and told Yukoners that this was the best that he could do, we might have been able to understand.

But for him to imply that he has achieved some great victory is an insult to Parks Canada, to the tourism industry and to Yukoners in general. It shows that the federal government still doesn’t recognize the value of the services that Parks Canada provides in the Yukon.

Transitioning responsibility of Parks Canada product to the private sector should have involved sufficient notice and meticulous planning. These are our cultural treasures and should be treated with distinction and care, not tossed around like hot potatoes mere weeks before the start of the summer season.

If the tourism operators are successful delivering the programs on these two sites, it will because of their hard work and determination, not because of anything done by the federal government. The current transition of product could have been achieved in less time if TIAY had worked directly with Parks Canada without political intervention; nothing the federal government has done has added value to this situation.

Neil Hartling

Chair, Tourism Industry

Association of the Yukon