Environment Minister comments show parks not a priority for BC Liberals

April 30, 2009

40 per cent cuts to park ranger staff shows lack of commitment: BCGEU

An appearance by BC Environment Minister Barry Penner on CBC Radio yesterday proves that BC's parks are not a priority for the BC Liberals, the BC Government and Service Employees' Union said today.

On the April 29 edition of CBC's Almanac program, Penner stated that the park ranger staff cuts, which he says will affect 45 provincial parks, "are temporary, until revenues stabilize," at which point a BC Liberal government would consider reinstating some of the positions.

"The minister is telling British Columbians that our parks are only a priority when they have extra cash to spend on them," said BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "Well, where were they when the province was experiencing record surpluses?

"Park rangers perform a vital service in BC parks - from emergency response, to ensuring public safety, enforcing legislation and suppressing wildfires. They should not be an afterthought on the government's
To Do list."

"The BC Liberals cut 30 per cent from the parks and environment budget in their first term, and we're still waiting to see those staff cuts restored. Now they are saying that public safety, enforcement and emergency planning are simply not a priority in BC parks."

Penner also stated on the CBC program that he was shifting resources to "focus on areas of the greatest demand." However, the BC Parks' 2007/08 Year End Report shows that in an area like the Kootenays, where "attendance also grew significantly," 3 of 5 seasonal auxiliary rangers were notified they will not be recalled this year.

"They obviously have no plan for our parks, other than allowing increased privatization and resort development.," said Walker. "We deserve a government that will protect and enhance our parks for future generations."

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Click to listen to April 29 CBC Almanac segment (MP3)