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Jasper residents concerned over gov’t plans to privatize hot springs in national parks
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, January 10, 2013 4:51PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:38PM MST
Jasper residents along with nation-wide unions are voicing their concerns over the federal government’s plans to privatize Miette Hot Springs, in addition to two other similar facilities in the Canadian Rockies.
Parks Canada recently announced plans to hand over operations of the Miette Hot Springs, as well as the Banff Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park to private companies.
A spokesperson said that it was mainly a business decision.
“The hot pools in the three parks have been basically a break-even operation,” Tracy Thiessen said in a phone interview from Banff. “The private sector has better access to capital, a flare for innovation and certainly the flexibility to take these hot pools into the next phase of their existence.”
However, the Public Service Alliance of Canada is concerned privatizing the facilities could lead to a rise in prices and job loss.
“Currently the hot springs are revenue neutral, and in fact brought in over a million dollars to the taxpayer coffers,” Marianne Hladun with PSAC said. “It’s not a money losing operation.”
The issue was at the centre of a public forum held in Jasper Wednesday night – where a number of residents expressed their concerns.
Those opposed to the move are asking Canadians to contact their local MP, in a fight to keep the hot springs under the Parks Canada flag.
“The parks were created when the hot springs were discovered,” Hladun said. “So really, the hot springs were the whole base of the parks system of Canada.”
Parks Canada has clarified it’s not selling the hot springs, but leasing them – and said any private operators will have to conform to certain environmental and operations criteria.
Bidding for potential operators will begin in the coming months.
With files from Ashley Molnar
Banff Upper Hot Springs is one of three hot springs facilities slated to be handed over to private operators by Parks Canada in early 2013.