Things are looking up for the Yukon’s Parks Canada sites, according to Tourism Minister Mike Nixon.
Nixon met with federal cabinet ministers in Ottawa on Monday to discuss cuts to the territory’s Parks Canada sites, including the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4.
While he wasn’t able to extract any promises from Ottawa, he said he is hopeful that an upcoming announcement about Parks will be just what Yukoners want to hear.
“It might be easy to take a couple of products like this away in Ontario, but when you do it in Yukon it has a substantial impact on the tourism economy and the product people can take part in when they’re here. We’re optimistic that announcement will be positive for Yukon, also keeping in mind that at the end of the day they have to keep a tight eye on the national purse strings too,” Nixon said.
Nixon met with Environment Minister Peter Kent, the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada. He also met with Maxime Bernier, the minister of state for tourism, and Heritage Minister James Moore, hoping to recruit their aid in convincing Kent that the Parks cuts need to be addressed.
Nixon said he has been working closely with Yukon MP Ryan Leef, and that an announcement about Parks Canada funding should be forthcoming in the next two weeks.
That announcement has been in the works for almost a month now. The Parks cuts were first announced in the federal budget in March of last year.
With only a few months left until tourist season, nearly everyone with a stake in the tourism industry – including the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and some local businesses – are worried that time is running out.
Klondike MLA Sandy Silver said he was happy to see Nixon getting to work in Ottawa, but that more should have been done long ago by both Nixon and Premier Darrell Pasloski.
“The minister responsible for tourism’s track record on this hasn’t been very good so far. There have been a couple letters back and forth. It’s good to see that he’s in Ottawa and doing his best to raise the issue. However, I’m wondering about his progress as well,” said Silver.
Pasloski was also in Ottawa this week for meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but the premier made no mention of having discussed the Parks cuts with Canada’s political leader.
That doesn’t sit well with Silver.
“I would think that a party on a territorial level that had this as a priority and when you have the prime minister’s attention, would bring this into his fold. If anybody can do anything about these cuts it would be the prime minister,” he said.
At this point, it has become a waiting game.
Last week two Marsh Lake residents put forth a proposal to Parks to start a Friends of the Klondike Corridor society to help raise money and possibly take over some services at the Parks sites. They are also waiting on an official response from Parks Canada.
Everything hinges on the coming announcement, but in the meantime, Silver said that talking about alternatives to restoring funding would be jumping the gun.
In talking with MP Ryan Leef, Silver said they both agree that curation of the sites’ historical artifacts isn’t something that should be farmed out to a not-for-profit or a friends society.
“I maintain that we shouldn’t even be talking about a Friends Of society yet. When Ryan comes back and tells us yes, no or if he’s reinstated any of the funding, sure at that time now we have to start talking about alternatives. I would put that out for the industry itself to figure out,” Silver said.
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