QUEENS PARK – Politics – Kenora MPP Sarah Campbell is questioning the Ontario Government over the latest Fall Tourism Guide. Campbell states that the guide that encourages people to enjoy Ontario this fall ignores the North, and tells people to go to Tourism Outlets that the Liberals closed.
On Sept. 23, the government unveiled its Fall Colour tourism campaign, encouraging people to visit provincial parks and other nature destinations. Sarah Campbell, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, says the problem is that most parks in the North have already closed for the season.
“In my riding alone, seven parks have already closed for the season and this does not include the Northern parks that were shut down by this government last year without any consultation,” says Campbell, who raised the issue in Question Period on Sept. 24.
Adding insult is the fact that the Ontario Travel Magazine suggests ten routes for tourists, all of which are inSouthern Ontario.
Rather than encourage tourists to visit the region during the popular fall season, which includes hunting and fishing opportunities, the campaign completely ignores the North, says Campbell.
“What’s worse is that all 10 of the suggested routes in your tourism guide are in Southern Ontario. The guide also encourages people to stop in at Travel Information Centres, which the Government closed last year,” states Campbell.
Campbell adds, the Travel Information Centres were closed in favour of an Ontario Travel Application for smart phones, which do not work in much of the region and carry almost no content from the Northwest. “Is this what the government means when it states ‘trust us, we have a solid tourism strategy for the North?”
Question Period Transcript
Ms. Sarah Campbell: To the Minister of Natural Resources: Minister, yesterday the Ontario government unveiled a fall-colours campaign encouraging people to travel Ontario. But in my riding alone, seven parks have already closed for the season, and that does not include the northern parks that were permanently shut down by this government last year, without any notice or consultation.
What’s worse is that all 10 of the suggested routes in your tourism guide are in southern Ontario. The guide also encourages people to stop in at their travel information centres, although this government has already shut those down, too.
Minister, did you even consider northerners when this fall-colours campaign was put together?
Hon. David Orazietti: As a northerner, certainly we consider the priorities and interests of northerners on this side of the House. With respect to the parks, it’s very, very clear that our commitment to managing the 334 parks in the province of Ontario is an incredibly important priority to our government.
The member opposite is well aware that in last year’s budget, with respect to the fiscal challenges that we’re facing in the ministry and the transformation efforts that were being made, a number of parks were converted to non-operational status. It didn’t mean they were closed; it meant that there would not be staff present, and individuals could still explore those parks and have that opportunity.
In the recent year, we’ve been able to develop partnerships with four communities to reopen and create the operational status again at four of those parks, which we are certainly very pleased with. There are ongoing efforts to continue to work with communities to reopen parks or to create the operational status designation, and I look forward to working with the member.
Ms. Sarah Campbell: Minister, earlier this year, the MNR closed seven parks across the north permanently. I agree that northern parks are beautiful and that they should be enjoyed, but this government has locked the gates. It shut down travel information centres across the northwest and replaced them with an app that doesn’t have our content and doesn’t work in the north. We have “Travel Manitoba” signs dotting our highways, and now it unveils its tourism strategy in black and white: “Travel Southern Ontario.”
Minister, is this what your government means when it tells us, “Trust us. We have a solid tourism strategy for northern Ontario”?
Hon. David Orazietti: I hear the bluster from the member opposite. The reality is that the government is committed to ensuring that we provide positive experiences and opportunities for everyone across this province, whether it’s in northern Ontario or southern Ontario.
As the member is well aware, there was a decision made last year with respect to the operational status of our provincial parks. I’m very pleased with the partnerships that we have been able to deliver on. The parks in the province operate at 82% cost recovery. We are still not recovering the level of funds that go into the investment that we make in Ontario parks. We’re continuing to make our parks more accessible with our online registration for camping and other opportunities in our parks. We’re continuing to look for new ways to support our parks and programs like Learn to Camp at Ontario Parks, and Learn to Fish.
So I certainly hear the member opposite’s concerns. We are concerned around these issues as well in ensuring that Ontarians have a great experience in our parks.