Why has BC Parks funding been frozen despite the government’s own research showing economic benefits?

I could write at length about my opinions of the challenges that BC Parks face under the current funding levels and the benefits that BC Parks provide to the province.

Instead, I am sharing a collection of statements from the BC Government that show that it makes economic sense to invest in BC Parks. The final link is to the BC Budget released on Feb 16th 2016, which shows that the government has chosen to freeze funding. I can not think of a way to reconcile the difference between what we know to be prudent and what we are actually doing.

Feb 13th 2016 — Study shows strong tourism growth in last decade

Tourism contributed $7.1 billion in GDP in 2014 to the provincial economy, for 4.5% growth over 2013. Tourism GDP grew more rapidly than that of the whole B.C. economy.

Report on the Budget 2016 Consultations — Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services

The Committee agreed with the need for increased funding for BC Parks, recognizing the potential for this sector to increase revenue and attract tourism along with its associated longer term socio-economic benefits for the province. Recommendations were made to boost investment for this sector, including the allocation of additional funds to be invested into the management and maintenance of the province’s protected areas. A specific consideration that the Committee endorsed was the need to provide additional park rangers to ensure the responsible stewardship of our provincial parks.

Gaining the Edge: 2015–2018 BRITISH COLUMBIA’S TOURISM STRATEGY

Visitors often travel to B.C. to experience nature in a way unavailable to them in their home country. B.C.’s parks system, for example, is one of the largest and most significant in the world and a key attraction for both citizens and tourists. BC Parks attendance increased to 21.35 million visits, the fourth consecutive annual increase.

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Over the coming years, BC Parks will invest to refurbish day-use, camping, trails and marine park facilities; improve accessibility in parks across the province; address health and safety issues; rejuvenated shower buildings, playgrounds and picnic shelters; and improve interpretation displays and accessibility.

Economic Benefits of BC Parks

In 2010, BC Parks worked with the Canadian Parks Council to measure the economic benefits of parks and contributed to the report, “The Economic Impact of Canada’s National, Provincial and Territorial Parks in 2009” (prepared by The Outspan Group Inc., published July 2011). This report shows that:
- The $47 million in operating and capital expenditures (excludes amortization) by BC Parks and PFOs led to $394 million in expenditures by visitors. In other words, every one dollar invested in the protected areas system generates $8.42 in visitor spending on food, entertainment, transportation and other goods and services.
- Provincial park-related spending generated over $28 million in tax revenues (sales and production taxes only, does not include income tax effects), returning 60 per cent of BC Parks’ capital and operating expenditures.
- The combined economic impact of this spending is a $392 million boost to GDP and over 5,200 full-time jobs.

Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Assessment Office — 2016/17–2018/19 SERVICE PLAN

Performance Measure: Number of recorded park visits
2014/15 Actual: 21.4 million
2015/16 Forecast: 22.0 million
2016/17 Target: 22.3 million
2017/18 Target: 22.6 million
2018/19 Target 22.9 million

But of course the only document that really matters is this one…..

BC Budget 2016

Estimates — Fiscal Year Ending March 31, 2017
BC Parks.
2015/2016 Net: $31,089,000
2016/2017 Net: $31,158,000

This is an increase of only $69,000 or 0.2% which doesn’t even cover the cost of inflation and is therefore a step backwards; particularly when normalized against increasing visitor numbers.

There is no rationale explanation. Even if we completely ignore our environmental responsibilities to future generations and the social and health benefits of an effective park system for the current generation, we are squandering an economic opportunity by not increasing funding.