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Provincial Budgets

BC Budget 2020
The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC recently made a submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on the 2020 provincial budget. The FMCBC requested an increase in funding for BC Parks. However, the question was, how much to request?
Alex Wallace of the FMCBC provided the following interesting background on BC Parks' annual operation budget over the years. Reprinted with his permission.
The BC Parks annual operating budget was roughly $35 million when the issue was raised as a concern by CPAWS in meeting with BC Parks management in 1994, 25 years ago. Yes, it then rose to $41 million for one year, but fell back during the “30% cuts” to $21 million around 1998. However there were (as I recall) only 440 Parks and Protected areas in the 1990’s and during the NDP tenure this gradually doubled, and so with the several additions during the Liberal Gov’t there now in 2019 are 1,033 Parks and Protected Areas in BC.
So, by my reckoning, if you add inflation over 20 or 25 years, plus the doubling of the number of Provincial Parks – i.e. Pinecone Burke is a recent addition., (but then again, it hasn’t actually seen anything in the way of substantive improvements either,) the adjusted figure would be around $150 million annually, so asking for $100 million annually is not unreasonable.
Metro Vancouver Regional Parks nowadays has a budget of $37 million* annually for 22 Regional Parks and a handful of greenways and conservation areas. [$1.5 million per site, whereas BC Parks has $30,000- $40,000 per site.] I have discussed my calculations with retired planner Mel Turner of Park Elders, and his figures roughly coincide with mine.
If you work back and add up the cumulative deficit for the BC Parks underfunding over two decades, this comes out to a maintenance deficit of roughly $630 million, and this is a similar to the ‘deferred maintenance’ deficit that looms over school boards thoughout the Province of BC, which took two decades to arise, - and for similar ‘Liberal accounting’ reasons. It is worth noting that the Gov’t felt that they had $630 million available to put a new roof on BC Place stadium during this period, although the contribution of that building to the tourism and recreation industry is minuscule compared to BC Parks.
Therefore if an amount was set aside annually to get things back to a reasonable footing, it would make the BC Parks annual operating budget figure even higher, perhaps to $180 million.
The reason that the public is unaware of the disparity between BC Parks budget and any other comparable park systems like Metro Vancouver Regional Parks or Washington State Parks (again, = $110 million annually for 110 State Parks) is that those provincial parks with busy booked campsites, like Porteau Cove, Englishman River Falls, or Monck Provincial Park on Nicola Lake are run by PFO’s and the funds that are generated in those busy parks stay right there, as they are operated as businesses and are maintained, whereas worn-out & overgrown trails obviously are not turning a profit and very seldom get repairs – [ and consequently, when there are rare trail rebuilding projects, those trails naturally get oversubscribed through social media exposure – hence the situation at certain places ‘in the news.’]
One non-monetary change that could be made is to have a biennial budget for BC Parks, as in many cases currently, projects can’t be planned until the spring after the February budget appropriation, then bids are tendered, contracts awarded after review, and the work starts in mid-season (July) and has to shut down when the snow starts, which at elevation can be in Mid-October, i.e. resulting with a three-month season to do work. One project started on Sept 24th of last year, working at 1100m. elevation, (... but they did get some repairs done.) This is a frustrating chain of events that tends to repeat on an annual basis, and some projects simply fall by the wayside ( literally) - whereas other parks systems with a biennial budget have two years to work on projects. However I’m not sure if that can be introduced into the BC Budget system which operates under “March Madness” rules, where there is a scramble to show that funds have been expended by the end of the Fiscal Year.
*The amazingly adequate budget that is provided to Metro Vancouver’s 22 Regional Parks and 7 Greenways comes out of municipal revenues from Property Taxes, sewer, water, etc. via the 23 participating municipalities & local authorities in the Lower Mainland at an average cost of $36 per household, although it is fair to say that almost no-one in the region actually knows what the M.V.R.D. Regional Parks annual operating budget is, what it costs them, ...or where it comes from!