SK-PA-2009-0043 LR

Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent is defending cuts to winter services at four national parks because he says fewer people use the outdoor spaces during the winter months.

Kent argues the cuts allow Parks Canada to focus services when the most people are there in the warmer weather.

The affected parks include:

  • Point Pelee (Ontario);
  • Riding Mountain (Manitoba);
  • Prince Albert (Saskatchewan); and
  • Elk Island (Alberta).

Parks Canada said it encourages visitors to experience its national parks, which remain open year-round. It will do its best to support access to national parks so visitors can continue to enjoy winter activities such as wildlife viewing, ski touring, and snowshoeing.

As part of its efforts to support the budget implementation and to meet the $29.2-million reduction to the agency’s budget, Geneviève Patenaude, Parks Canada media relations officer, says the organization has taken several steps to reduce expenditures, including aligning its season, hours of operation, and visitor services to better reflect current patterns of visitation and visitor needs. This has meant reductions in winter services, such as grooming of cross-country ski trails in some parks.

“Parks Canada is committed to working closely with regional and local tourism industries and partners to minimize, where possible, the impacts of program changes on neighbouring communities, and we are open to discussions should there be a desire to pursue alternate programming options at no extra cost to taxpayers,” explains Patenaude. “For example, following unsolicited proposals, Parks Canada is very pleased to have partnered with the Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce to support a volunteer program of trail grooming and track setting in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park as well as with the Côte-de-Gaspé local development centre for ski-trail grooming at Gaspé, Québec’s Forillon National Park.”

Alan Latourelle, head of Parks Canada, says park visits last summer increased by four per cent, and grew by seven per cent at national historic sites.