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Alternatives Journal, Canadiana, Environment

Northern Campers in Limbo

Image by PT Douglas

Kapuskasing mayor Alan Spacek is optimistic that an October 18 meeting between Northern Ontario’s mayors and Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle will lead to changes in the government’s decision to reduce services in 10 provincial parks. The group presented a report to the minister that compiled park usage data from the MNR website, and Spacek expressed concerns about how Gravelle presented the government’s return on investment figures.

“Gravelle talked about a return on investment of 35 cents per dollar for some of the parks closed, but he played with the numbers and used the lowest return as a stand-in for all of them,” Spacek said. “Many have an ROI of 60 to 65 cents per dollar invested, [so] the decision wasn’t about reducing the financial burden on the ministry budget because that is possible without closing parks.”

According to Spacek’s usage figures, at least five of the parks that have been closed break even, while some even turn a profit. Any parks that are draining the public purse could simply be held in abeyance until profitable, Spacek suggested.

If the ministry moves forward with Gravelle’s plan, it would be to save $100,000 per park per year for a total annual savings of $1-million dollars, which is clearly not enough of a reason for Spacek and the northern residents he has spoken with on this issue.

“Northern Ontario doesn’t have a lot of publically funded amenities, and to do all this for $1-million a year makes you wonder what really motivated this decision,” he said. Spacek noted the parks closure announcement came on Sept. 27, the last day of Ontario Northland train service from Cochrane to Toronto before the government announced plans to divest itself of the northern railway.

“People are livid,” Spacek says. “Our public meetings on the issue are all standing room only. NDP MPP Gilles Bisson told a meeting here recently that in all his years in provincial politics, he has never seen this level of northern frustration with the government.”

The full story can be read at Alternatives Journal.

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