Despite the fact that the Hot Springs Enterprise Unit is a cost-neutral Parks Canada program, the Conservatives plan to privatize these services. For Canadians, this will mean an increase in rates or decrease in the standards of service.
“Companies are in business for one reason and one reason only—to make money,” says Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “They are driven to put profit above all else which means offering the least amount of service at the highest price the market will allow.”
Currently, admission to the hot springs is one of the most affordable attractions making them a popular draw for tourists and local residents. General adult admission starts at $6.05 on the low end at Miette Hot Springs and peaks at $7.30 for the Banff Upper Hot Springs. In comparison, an adult pass for the privately owned Banff Gondola retails for $29.95, increasing to $34.95 in 2013.
“The hot springs is one of the most affordable things a family can do. It’s a unique experience, as well as a cultural experience,” says Jaison Van Tine, Local President for the Union of National Employees (UNE) Local 30117, which represents employees at the springs. “If privatized, the only way to make a profit is to increase the cost, which will limit the access for average Canadians.”
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the balance of evidence shows privatization leads to poorer service, loss of jobs and money from local communities, higher user fees and, very often, higher costs to governments. That’s because private sector companies are only interested in doing work that’s profitable. Their goal is not to ensure a better quality of public services.
Much of the private tourist attractions in these communities are already American-owned and, if privatized, the springs might soon be too. This doesn’t sit well with Dawn Price, an employee of Miette Hot Springs.
“Why would we let an American company have a monopoly on our Canadian national parks? The government needs to be held in check. We need to say, ‘No! That’s enough! We’re not going to stand for this!’”
Meanwhile, Terry Pal worries about customer experience and how privatization will have the biggest impact on the Park’s most loyal clientele.
“We have a couple that has been coming for two weeks in June and two weeks in September every year since 1963. They’re now in their late 80s, but they still live for this water,” says Pal, who works at Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia. “It’s those people who stand to lose the most under privatization. Those who truly believe in this water. For them, it’s a way of life.”