The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

April 22, 2005 08:00 ET

Canada's national parks neglected, need power of markets to save them says new study

CALGARY, April 22 - Market-based policies, including user fees,
outsourcing, and private management, offer the best hope for the long-term
maintenance and protection of Canada's parks, according to "Can Markets Save
Canada's National Parks?", released today by The Fraser Institute.
The new paper discusses the dismal maintenance record of the federal
government with regard to protecting Canada's parks and explains how private
conservation initiatives eliminate "park barrel" politics, reducing conflict
and securing better environmental outcomes.
"Canada's national parks have grown dramatically in recent decades, but
the resources to maintain them haven't and the results have been disastrous,"
said Sylvia LeRoy, co-author of the paper and policy analyst at the Institute.
Creative solutions lie in localizing management and decision-making
processes, creating new efficiencies by experimenting with various
privatization options, and managing parks towards self-sufficiency, preferably
through trusts and other voluntary means.
Citing consistent criticisms by Canada's Auditor General and other
independent reviewers over the past 20 years, LeRoy observes that Canada's
network of national parks has expanded at the expense of existing parks.
Parks Canada reports that 25 percent of the heritage buildings managed by the
government agency have been lost in only 30 years, and two-thirds of national
historic sites are currently at risk. One third of park facilities are now in
"urgent need of repair," with another third likely to need repair in the next
five to ten years.
New funding promised by the federal government fails to meet current
infrastructure requirements and long-term maintenance needs.
The study advises learning from the best practices of the non-profit
conservation sector as well as private land conservation initiatives that have
proven successful in Canadian provinces, American states, and abroad.
"Notwithstanding heavy government involvement, private land conservation
initiatives are achieving considerable success in Canada: over the past
5 years, the number of known land trusts operating in Canada has more than
doubled, from 60 to 125, protecting a growing expanse of Canada's land and
waters," commented LeRoy. Private stewardship groups are credited with
creating over 70 percent of new protected areas in Atlantic Canada between
1987 and 1996.
The study makes specific recommendations to properly manage and protect
Canada's parks:

- Decision-making and setting user fees for various recreational
opportunities and services should be done locally, to reflect the real
costs of providing services, public demand, and ecological values.
Individual parks should fully retain and reinvest all locally-
generated revenues.

- With 60 percent of Parks Canada's budget going to salaries and
benefits, the organization can achieve significant cost efficiencies
by contracting out park management and service delivery. Consideration
should be given to reinstating the Employee Takeover (ETO) Process
initiated (and subsequently abandoned) in the mid-1990s to provide
current park employees the opportunity to become environmental

- More flexibility on the issue of ownership of individual parks and
sites is needed if the federal government wishes to fulfill its 2002
Action Plan to increase the size of the national park system.
Fiduciary trusts, managed by an independent board obligated to manage
and protect parks into perpetuity, can be established with an initial
endowment but be required to attain full self-sufficiency within 10

"There is no question that Canada's parks and protected areas enrich the
quality of life of Canadians, providing us with valuable recreational and
environmental amenities. Unfortunately, the politics of park management have
prevented Parks Canada from considering the full range of policy options that
could help secure a sustainable future for Canada's national parks," concluded

Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent public policy
organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.
For further information, please contact:
Suzanne Walters, Director of Communications, The Fraser Institute
Telephone (604) 714-4582, Email
The media release and study (in PDF) can be viewed on the web site at

Contact Information

  • Sylvia LeRoy
    Policy Analyst
    The Fraser Institute
    Tel: (403) 216-7175

    Dr. Kenneth Green
    Director, Risk, Regulation and Environment Studies
    The Fraser Institute
    Tel: (604) 714-4547