Local Parks Canada staff swallow a bitter pill

By David F. Rooney

This week’s massive job cuts in the federal public service have rippled their way across the country with 14 staff positions impacted within the local 127-person Parks Canada workforce.

Karen Tierney, superintendent of Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, said five staff members voluntarily agreed “to be surplused.” Although local Parks officials are working out the details it’s likely the remaining nine staff positions will, at least, see their hours cut.

“We’ve been making a lot of adjustments,” she said. “But all of them are tough choices. The reality is it impacts all of our staff.”

All told, about 4,000 public service positions were affected by the long-expected cuts, announced on Monday. At Parks Canada offices across the country, 1,689 PSAC members received affected notices and staff were told that 638 positions will be eliminated. Those “Affected Notices” do not necessarily equal job losses. In many instances they mean a loss of hours or some other cost-saving measure.

Many of the choices will affect the agency’s public services — not however, the Highway Services Centre, avalanche control or the visitor safety program.

The peak season sees 600,000 visitors to the parks July through August, with lesser numbers of visitors during the Victoria Day – Canada Day and post-Labour Day shoulder seasons. In fact, it will close at Thanksgiving — three full weeks earlier than normal.

Tierney said that starting this summer, Meadows in the Sky will open as usual but will now close three hours earlier every day.

She said Parks is attempting to mitigate that by installing an automated exit gate that will be operational at 7 pm each evening. That will ensure that people who have, say, hiked to Eva Lake or who are enjoying a picnic at one of the lookouts don’t have to leave the park right at 7.

“Parks Canada will no longer directly provide a winter offer (for example track setting and Ski Chalet bookings) on Mount Revelstoke but we will look to work with the community to explore options for third-party delivery of winter activities,” Tierney said.

That’s a good opportunity for someone in the local community and Tierney hopes the right person or persons will step forward with a proposal.

Other service changes include the following:

  • The Giant Cedars Day Use Area will be open and staffed when the snow disappears in spring (usually early June) through to late September.  The area will remain open, unstaffed, between late September and Thanksgiving and will then close;
  • The Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park will open the Victoria Day weekend through to Thanksgiving and then re-open in December through April for the winter season, but will be fully closed between those dates;
  • Winter hours will be reduced by one hour;
  • Winter activities will continue to be offered in Glacier National Park;
  • Illecillewaet Campground will continue to open in the spring once the snow cover is gone (usually the third week in June but it will close September 30; and
  • Science, monitoring, and reporting expectations will be focused on key indicators required for management decision-making and all functions will be aligned with seasonal requirements.

“When visitation is at its highest during the peak season of operation, staffing will be at its highest levels and facilities will be fully operational. I would like to stress that we are not closing permanently any parks or sites,” Tierney said.