Tuesday December 1, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on a Members Statement in support of our provincial parks. Several weeks ago Manitoba Liberals uncovered evidence that the Pallister government had put out a request for proposals related to our parks. It focused on how best to "monetize" and get more revenue from our provincial parks. There is a concern, arising from this request for proposals that the Pallister government is seeking to privatize park spaces and activities within parks. I spoke of the importance of our parks to all Manitobans and that the focus of our efforts in relation to parks should be on enabling Manitobans to get exposure to nature and physical exercise in our parks and why this is so important to our health and well-being. My Members Statement is below. You can also see it in video on line at this link.
In Support of Our Provincial Parks
Provincial parks are an essential public service. They were a lifeline for many Manitobans this summer during the pandemic. Our parks provide access to nature and its gifts - from vigorous canoeing to calm reflection, from a glimpse of history to a sampling of Manitoba’s biodiversity, from fishing in summer to cross-country skiing in winter.
Naomi and I had three days in the Whiteshell provincial park this year and we hiked part of the Mantario trail. It is a great place for nature – which Oscar Wilde defined as ”a place where birds fly around uncooked.” There were eagles, loons, pipits, rusty blackbirds and many more – all flying free.
Sadly the Pallister government has severely cut the staff who support our parks and who address ecological issues like climate change. Sadly, the Pallister government has commissioned a major study of our parks with the primary objective to “increase visitor spending, revenues and cost recovery.” While I am for wise spending, our primary objective in parks should be enhancing health and learning about history.
The natural world and the physical exercise we get in our parks give extraordinary health benefits. John Ratey in his book Spark highlights science showing that physical exercise builds and conditions the brain. Putting exercise first can be important step to academic excellence. Florence Williams in her book The Nature Fix reviews science showing that forests and lakes decrease stress, help our mental well being and increase our immune boosting cells. Richard Luov in his book The Last Child in the Woods shows how our parks can decrease the symptoms of ADHD and save our children from nature deficit disorder.
I call on our province to focus on parks as nature, health, beauty and wonder, not as just another place to monetize and privatize.