Prince Edward Island Clarifies Position on Provincial Parks
The provincial government of Prince Edward Island has no intention of losing control over its provincial parks.
Kevin Jenkins, director of corporate services for the Department of Tourism and Culture, said the recent interest from the private sector in operating campgrounds at Green Park and Cabot Park will be dealt with through a public process, The Journal Pioneer, Summerside, reported. He said there is no intent to sell provincial run campgrounds but the province is open to leasing these facilities to the private sector if the plan is acceptable.
Barry Balsom. president of the Green Park Development Corp., has criticized the province for not informing his group of the plans to bring the private sector into the provincial campgrounds.
Jenkins said, “We didn’t contact anyone. We had an unsolicited proposal for Green Park.”
He said the response from his department was, “We’re going to have to go to some kind of a public process before we could ever consider signing an agreement to operate any of our campgrounds… So you go to a public process, put an ad in the newspaper that gives everybody equal footing.”
Jenkins said he understands where Balsom and the Green Park Development Corp. are coming from because they have been involved with the park for years.
He said there is no intention on the part of government to sell off any provincial park lands. If any negotiations are concluded it would be on a lease arrangement only.
Jenkins said there are certainly private sector campgrounds on Prince Edward Island that operate successfully.
“The private sector operates under some different rules than we do,” he said.
Government is always examining their role in business, whether it’s campgrounds or golf courses, that is competing with the private sector. “If there’s a private sector party out there that wants to operate a facility, when does government say, ‘No we’re not interested in that?’ Or when does government say, ‘Sure we’ll call for expressions of interest?”’
Jenkins said the government tends to respond to expressions of interest by saying, “Tell us what your plan is. We’ll evaluate it in terms of financial returns to the province, to the tourism industry and to the local economy.”
Balsom also expressed concern over the potential loss of 14 jobs at Green Park and Cabot Park should the province privatize the two provincial campgrounds.
“If no private sector person comes forth with an acceptable proposal, the province will operate both campgrounds,” said Jenkins. “It will be business as usual which means there will be no jobs lost.”
He said if a private sector person does come forward, they are going to need staff to operate it.
“There’s a lot of experience in dedicated park staff there who know the infrastructure inside out, knows the operations inside out. They are ideally positioned to work for an operator whether that operator is government or the private sector. There may indeed, in the end, be no job losses.”