Rob Clarke, the Conservative MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, has been silent on Parks Canada's decision to stop grooming ski trails in Prince Albert National Park, and we've taken notice. Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region, wrote him a letter to voice her concerns.
The letter was published in The Prince Albert Daily Herald on Jan. 3, 2013. Additionally, excerpts of this letter were used in The StarPhoenix article on Dec. 24, 2012, entitled "Critics decry ski trail grooming cuts." Marianne Hladun also submitted a letter to the editor of the The Prince Albert Daily Herald in response to their Dec. 14, 2012 article "P.A. National Park improves its grooming habits." Her response was published on Dec. 27, 2012.
Dear Mr. Clarke,
As I’m sure you know, Parks Canada has made the unilateral decision to stop grooming ski trails in numerous locations across the country, including one within your riding at the Prince Albert National Park. This decision has caused uproar among local residents who utilize and value these trails as well as businesses that rely on the tourism it attracts in the winter off-season.
I find it concerning that you have been silent on the subject since the cutbacks were announced last month. There is no mention of this significant local issue on your website and no media statements from your office.
Instead, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback is referenced in local media saying that the Conservative government is working with the people to make sure these services are still offered. To be clear, its only because your government cut the services that local volunteers have had to step forward to do the work the Parks Canada employees have been doing for years.
It’s certainly admirable that local citizens are willing to volunteer their time to maintain the ski trails for the benefit of the entire community, but what is your government doing to protect these volunteers from accidents while operating the heavy machinery required to groom the trails? Many of the trails cross bodies of water. What would happen if a volunteer’s snowmobile went through the ice? I seriously doubt the half-day training session they were given would help them protect themselves. For Parks employees governed by Canada Labour Code Part II, a half-day training would not meet the employer's obligations so how is it acceptable to put volunteers at risk?
This government has a responsibility to maintain the integrity of our Parks and can’t simply dump that responsibility on to taxpaying Canadian volunteers. That’s what we have federally trained employees for. They have the knowledge and experience required to do it properly, and most importantly, to do it safely.
Mr. Clarke, your silence speaks volumes. Seven employees working for Parks Canada have already lost their jobs in your riding. Many of them were also residents of Prince Albert National Park, all of them contributed to the Park’s well being. Seven constituents and their families will no longer contribute to the community or unfortunately, may have to leave to find employment elsewhere.
I can tell you that the remaining employees in the Park are swamped. For example, carpenters in the Park have seen their workforce whittled away and are finding it difficult to keep up with basic preventative maintenance work. As a result, new projects are being contracted out.
On your website you wrote that the Conservative government you represent is “particularly interested in keeping money where it belongs – in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.” Mr. Clarke, hardworking Canadians are losing their jobs right in your own backyard.
Residents of the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River riding deserve an MP who will go to bat for them when local activities are affected and services are cut. Prince Albert National Park employees deserve an MP who will protect their rights as workers.
I call on you to stand up and speak out for all the people you were elected to represent. Its time to protect Prince Albert National Park for your own constituents and the countless other visitors that enjoy it year round by restoring all services and jobs.
I await your response.
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies