The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.
The theme of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s annual trip to Canada’s North this year has been the supremacy of the resource economy — the “great national dream” of reaping the economic bounty of the region — over competing claims. And appearances to the contrary, his announcement of a new national park is consistent with that theme.
Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, which comprises 4,840 square kilometres in the Northwest Territories, is a welcome new jewel in our rich parks system. It will protect large portions of the upper waterhead of the South Nahanni River, as well as the area’s grizzly and woodland caribou habitats. It will also preserve part of a place of particular spiritual significance to the First Nations peoples in the area.
There is, however, some concern about how the government will manage to maintain the site and facilitate access. While Harper has commendably announced no fewer than five new national parks since taking office in 2006, his government has also slashed Parks Canada’s budget, forcing many sites to reduce operating hours or cut other services.
It seems the prime minister has calculated that the political points scored by announcing new parks outnumber those lost by failing to maintain existing ones.
Moreover Nááts’ihch’oh could have been much more. According to Parks Canada, in Harper’s configuration it “offers minimal protection to important conservation values.” Or as former Northwest Territories premier Stephen Kakfwi puts it: “That is not a national park, that is a joke.”
Rarely have the trade-offs between environment and economy been starker. Parks Canada submitted three proposals for the site, the most environmentally minded of which would have created a park 33 per cent larger than the one established.
For the rest of this editorial, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1246861–new-national-park-falls-short