I will never know what public office would have been like prior to the Internet, however I am quickly learning that online information is something that needs to be scrutinized very carefully. Over this past weekend I was made aware of claims that the Jasper National park was soon to be privatized and had been sold to an International company. Further this international company planned on charging all park users an entrance fee in order to help finance large scale private development within the park. Fairly serious claims and fortunately none of them are true. This type of misinformation seems to be occurring on a more frequent basis within certain segments of the online internet community.
I would like to thank those citizens who were sceptical of such claims and forwarded this misinformation to me for further clarification that I am more than happy to provide. What is really occurring is that Parks Canada, back in 2010, initiated a public consultation process to identify a vision for the Icefields Parkway. The goal is to increase learning opportunities and enhance the abilities for park visitors to enjoy the environment and gain insights into the regions ecological and cultural heritage. Brewster, a company who has for many years operated the unique “ice explorer” buses in the area, has proposed to add a new feature to the well known Ice field glacier adventure. The new feature being discussed is a glacial discovery walk, complete with a handicapped accessible 400 meter interpretive boardwalk featuring a glass-floored observation platform extended 30 meters over the Sunwapta Valley below.
Cleary some individuals will not be supportive of this type of a feature within the Jasper National park not unlike those who opposed the introduction of motorized ice explores when they were first introduced over thirty years ago. However since that time over 10 million visitors have utilized the increased access to better understand and enjoy the unique learning opportunities of the ice fields. Many local citizens and tourists the world over have also at one time or another travelled in an ice explorer and can recall many fond memories of that unique experience. Regardless of supporting or opposing increased public amenities in public parks any suggestion that Jasper National Park is being sold or that mass scale development is occurring is patently false. It should also be noted that park user fees remain at the sole responsibility of Parks Canada. In reality when and where private services are offered in public parks those revenues are typically used to offset park operating costs ensuring that actual park users pay an additional share over and above average Canadian taxpayers.
It was not my intention this week to cover the Jasper National Park in my weekly MP report as there are more localized concerns I had intended to discuss. However with such a strong level of misinformation on the topic and many local citizens asking for clarification I felt it was important to relay to the citizens of Okanagan Coquihalla that Parks Canada is not selling parks as some have wrongly suggested. As the House of Commons will not sit again until the end of the month on January 30th I would be interested in hearing from you. If you have time for a meeting or even a phone to relay your concerns I encourage you to contact me to schedule an appointment. I can be reached at 250-770-4480 or toll free at 1-800-665-8711
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.