Q.P. Parks Canada - Bear Creek May 14, 2013

Question re:  Parks Canada funding cuts

Mr. Silver:    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Over the last number of years, Parks Canada has been slowly pulling out of Dawson City. Last summer’s decision to end guided tours at Dredge No. 4 was only the latest in a long line of cutbacks. For example, the assets of Bear Creek are no longer open to the public and SS Keno is only partially open.

I am sympathetic to local Parks Canada staff as Ottawa continues to reduce funding; however, there is an appetite in Dawson to see these, and other assets such as Bear Creek, being better utilized.

Does the Premier recognize the long-term impact these cuts have on the community of Dawson, and what, if anything, does this government plan to do about it?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:    Indeed, this side of the House is certainly concerned about all the artifacts and historical sites we have, and we recognize the significant role that the area of Klondike does play, not only here in the territory but around the world in terms of the significance of what has occurred — the historical background of the Klondike Gold Rush.

I would like to recognize the work that we have done, and the work of the Minister of Tourism and Culture. When notice first came out about the issue of the possible changes to to Parks Canada, I know the minister was on this immediately.

I do know that, although the member opposite does come from the riding and represents the riding of Klondike, the minister did not hear from him on it until last fall. I guess it wasn’t that much of a priority for the Member for Klondike at the time, but I know our Department of Tourism and Culture has been working diligently on this. They have been working together with the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon. We note some of the solutions that came forward for the dredge and for the SS Klondike, and we’ll continue to work with the federal government, through the Department of Tourism and Culture, to ensure we can preserve those artifacts that are important to all Yukoners.

Mr. Silver:    I won’t personalize my side of this debate. The Friends of Bear Creek Society was formed as a result of the ongoing Ottawa-directed cutbacks to the Parks Canada Klondike budget. I know Parks Canada staff are Dawson are very passionate about their work. They’re simply not getting the support they need from the federal government. The society’s mission is to bring together those people interested in the history and the preservation of Bear Creek and the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation, or YCGC. They want to preserve, restore and rejuvenate the artifacts and assets related to YCGC, and in particular, their Bear Creek camp, through various fundraising and restoration initiatives. They want to make Bear Creek buildings and artifacts accessible while ensuring their protection.

Is the Government of Yukon prepared to work with Parks Canada, the Friends of Bear Creek Society, and others to revitalize the Bear Creek site?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:    In addressing the member opposite’s question, I think we have shown a real collaboration in the way we work with Parks Canada. We can just look at last year with the cuts to the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4 for an example: my meetings with Minister Kent, the federal Minister for Environment; my meetings with the Hon. Minister Maxime Bernier for Tourism; and my meetings with Hon. James Moore for Heritage.

We will continue to work with our federal counterparts on a number of the Parks Canada issues. I think our work in the past has proven to be successful, but the Government of Yukon is very pleased by the measures taken by the Government of Canada to ensure that Yukon continues to offer high-quality tourism experiences and products here in the territory.

I thank the member opposite for his question, but he just needs to look back into Hansard from earlier this session to the work that we did with the federal government and Parks Canada to mitigate the issues of the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4.

Mr. Silver:    I don’t know if my microphone is on or not, but I’m not talking about those; I’m talking about Bear Creek.

The best case scenario is that Ottawa starts putting more money into Bear Creek and other park assets in Dawson. In terms of the Friends of Bear Creek, the guiding principles of the society are making Bear Creek’s buildings and artifacts accessible while ensuring their protection, promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of Bear Creek and YCGC, and working with other societies, museums, organizations and community institutions for the protection and preservation of Bear Creek. As the MLA for Klondike, I support the efforts that Dawson residents have made to date to save our history, but we need to do more.

What concrete actions is the Premier prepared to take to ensure that our history in Dawson is preserved and promoted?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:    The Yukon government is, as I said, pleased that the Government of Canada will ensure that the Parks Canada collection of historic artifacts will remain in the territory. These significant heritage resources will continue to be managed locally by Parks Canada with the assistance from specialized national collections and curatorial staff. The Department of Tourism and Culture will continue to work with the Government of Canada to ensure that Parks Canada will properly maintain the artifacts for the benefit of both Yukon residents and visitors to the territory.

I, myself, will continue on with the relationship that I have with the federal government and the counterparts in Environment, Tourism and heritage and work collaboratively with the government, with our MP and our Senator to move forward with heritage initiatives and issues within the territory.

So I’ll continue my good work, as I think I’ve proven with the cuts to the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4. Moving forward, I’m happy to meet with the Friends of Bear Creek and see how we can move forward from today.