Charlene Porter wrote this letter to the Chronicle Herald which was published on Friday afternoon. We have sent it to you so you can read the great argument she put together about why cutting parks positions is a bad idea.
We also want to encourage all members to please visit www.whatwillyoulose.ca and look at the toolkit we put together for you. Take a few minutes to write to the Premier and the MLA about the work you do. Send a letter to your local business. Write a letter to the editor like Charlene did. Speak out now. Your voice does make a difference.
Please read Charlene’s op-ed below and a link to it at the bottom.
I am writing about the Feb. 27 announcement of cutbacks at seven provincial parks, especially the Whycocomagh Provincial Park. I was one of seven employees who lost their jobs there.
We were shocked when we were informed that seven out of 20 camping parks were going to be “self-serve” and that, essentially, 38 people would be replaced by kiosk machines. Yes, we were replaced by machines! And it was implied that the park visitors would not notice the difference between self-serve and having an actual person there to help them.
We’ve been told that the elimination of these 38 jobs will save $600,000 by 2016. We don’t believe that this figure takes into account the lost revenue at the park level, which the province estimated to be 25 per cent of park revenue due to non-payment by campers. It most certainly does not take into account the financial losses to the affected communities. It also does not take into consideration the financial impact on the tourism industry, which we all know is one of Nova Scotia’s biggest.
Then on March 21, the federal government announced it will be investing more than $85 million to support improvements for Parks Canada infrastructure on Cape Breton Island, including the following projects:
- Peter’s Canal bridge replacement ($10.4 million)
- Bridge, culverts and road rehabilitation on the Cabot Trail ($52.3 million)
- Visitor facilities rehabilitation, including the trails and campground in Cape Breton Highlands National Park ($1.9 million)
- Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Route 22 rehabilitation ($10 million).
- This represents the largest federal infrastructure plan in the 104-year history of Parks Canada, ensuring these cherished places are protected and secured for the future while also creating and protecting jobs and opportunities.
Federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay said: “Our government is committed to creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Today’s announcement will strengthen and grow our local and regional partnerships as we increase the opportunity to further enhance tourism experiences on Cape Breton Island. This historic investment in our parks and heritage destinations creates and protects jobs while also offering boundless opportunities for adventure, recreation, learning, environmental stewardship, inspiration and self-renewal.”
I am questioning why the provincial government is not following suit and investing in parks and tourism, knowing that it is one of our biggest industries?
Why after all the time, money and effort was put into the Ivany report, and “The Path We Share, A Natural Resources Strategy for Nova Scotia, 2011-2020,” is the government not following the findings? Why aren’t both provincial and federal governments working together? With the increase in tourism, where are visitors going to stay? Who is going to welcome them and show them how wonderful our Island is? How will they know where to go and when?
We all know that living in rural Nova Scotia is hard and many people have to leave to be able to find employment to support their families. We all know that every job is important and we can’t afford to lose our population by driving them out west with their families in order to survive.
We should be investing and promoting our parks, not setting them up to fail by taking out the personal experience and knowledge they get from us, the park workers.
Machines cannot replace that and they cannot do what is needed to care for the maintenance of these parks. Machines cannot give the tourists what they want, nor give them what they come back for, year after year, visiting our parks. Machines also cost money: money to install them, money to train the few remaining employees on how to use them, and money to maintain them.
Whycocomagh Park was one of the first provincial parks, started in 1959. It also is the only provincial park that has a First Nations community next door, and the Gaelic and Scottish history surrounding our park is second to none. The Whycocomagh Park is the only provincial park that has access to the Bras d’Or Lakes and its unique biosphere. We are also the only park located on the Trans-Canada Highway.
At Whycocomagh Park, we lost seven of our 11 workers (64 per cent). We all understand financial realities, and realize that sometimes costs have to be cut. As experienced park workers, we could have made many suggestions as to how this could have been accomplished without the devastating impact on individuals, businesses and tourism.
One of the biggest potential savings would be to return to the practice of having Nova Scotians taking reservations for Nova Scotia provincial parks. Campers are charged a reservation fee of $9 that goes directly to Camis, an Ontario-based company that runs a large call-centre operation. There are a number of viable ways to save money, without taking away these much-needed jobs. We would have all been more than happy to work with the government on saving money if given the chance.
Charlene Porter lives in River Denys, Inverness County