Parks Canada to cut or reduce 64 jobs in North

Parks Canada says 32 positions in the N.W.T., 30 in Yukon and two in Nunavut will be affected as a result of federal budget cuts.

Cuts may mean reduced operations at national parks next season

Though Parks Canada will eliminate or reduce 64 positions in the North, it says no national parks will close as a result.

Parks Canada said 32 positions in the N.W.T., 30 in Yukon and two in Nunavut will be affected as a result of federal budget cuts. Across Canada, more than 600 jobs will be affected at Parks Canada.

Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site near Dawson City, Yukon will no longer have guided tours following cuts and reductions to 64 Parks Canada jobs in the three territories. (CBC)

Bill Fisher, Parks Canada's vice-president of operations for Western and Northern Canada, said reducing 64 positions doesn’t mean that number of people will lose their jobs.

"In the Yukon there are 30 positions that are impacted and of those, 16 positions will be eliminated and of that, seven people volunteered to depart," he said. "Another 14 persons or positions will see a change in their hours of work, probably a reduction in their season of operation."

Fisher said the cuts won't affect how the national parks operate this season. Any changes to service resulting from the staff cuts will take effect next season.

"In terms of what visitors will see, there won't be any significant changes in Northern operations until the fall," he said. "We already have very short operating seasons in terms of times when our visitors tend to access the parks, so for the national parks we don't anticipate seeing any major changes."

To minimize the impact on visitors, the jobs affected range from administrative to technical to asset management.

But Fisher said some adjustments have to be made to visitor services. In the North, that means two national historic sites in Yukon — the SS Klondike in Whitehorse and Dredge No. 4 near Dawson City — will no longer have tour guides, only self-guided tours.

Fisher said during the off-season there will be minor adjustments to hours and operations in the parks.

The Union of National Employees represents Parks Canada workers. Its representative for the N.W.T., Geoff Ryan, said any jobs lost will have an impact.

"These people are part of our communities across the North," he said.

"These are jobs retailers depend on for their sales, service companies depend on for their sales, and these people are no longer going to have the income to spend in our communities. This is going to hurt our economy."

Jenni Bruce with NWT Tourism said her organization highlights parks in its marketing.

"A shorter season probably means retail, accommodation, any of these sectors situated beside the park, aren't going to have as many people coming, so not as much revenue," she said.

Chuck Blyth worked as a superintendent for more than a decade in the Nahanni National Park Reserve.

"These parks are a real vital part of the local communities, so you cut a couple people or shorten their positions and it has a fairly significant effect on the towns," he said.

He said with the Nahanni National Park Reserve's expansion in 2009, any cuts will be felt hard.

"It was expanded by about seven times, plus it has another unique aspect in that there is going to be a mining road through it, with Canadian Zinc," he said. "And that presents a lot of permitting and regulating and environmental monitoring and co-operation and technical committees, so if there are cutbacks, who is going to do that?"