40% cut to park ranger staff shows lack of environmental commitment.
Vancouver (4 May 2009) - B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner has confirmed that the province's parks are not a priority for the Liberal government of Premier Gordon Campbell, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
Penner told the CBC last week that a 40% cut to park ranger staff, affecting 45 provincial parks, will last until provincial revenues "stabilize." Some of the positions will then be reinstated, he said.
BCGEU says the plan speaks volumes about the government's attitude toward parks.
"The minister is telling British Columbians that our parks are only a priority when they have extra cash to spend on them," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker.
"Well, where were they when the province was experiencing record surpluses?" Walker asks.
"Park rangers perform a vital service in B.C. parks - from emergency response, to ensuring public safety, enforcing legislation and suppressing wildfires," he notes.
"They should not be an afterthought on the government's To Do List. The B.C. Liberals cut 30% 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 B.C. parks."
Penner also told CBC he was shifting resources to "focus on areas of the greatest demand."
However, the B.C. Parks 2007-08 year end report shows that in an area like the Kootenays, where "attendance also grew significantly," three of five 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," says Walker. "We deserve a government that will protect and enhance our parks for future generations."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE