IN THE MEDIA: Radium hot pools will not be privatized

By Steve Hubrecht, Columbia Valley Pioneer

Operation of Radium Hot Springs — and other hot springs in Parks Canada’s mountain parks — will not be privatized.

Federal Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna announced last week, on Friday, September 2nd, that Parks Canada will maintain operational responsibility for the Radium, Banff Upper and Miette hot springs and that the federal government will no longer be seeking a private operator for these hot springs, putting to rest an issue that has bubbling for more than eight years.

“We’re ready to turn the page and move forward,” Parks Canada Lake Louise-Yoho-Kootenay superintendent Melanie Kwong told The Pioneer. “It means some things for Parks Canada, including the employees at the hot pools, in terms of certainty.”

The idea of privatizing operation of the Radium pools and other mountain parks hot springs was first brought up in the 2008 budget, and remained hovering in the background as a looming possibility until 2012, when Parks Canada put out a request for proposals for a private operator. Since then there had been little public indication of progress on the situation until earlier this year, when Parks Canada Pacific and mountain national parks executive director Pat Thomsen said the organization was still doing a formal assessment of the divestment strategy...

“I think it was absolutely the right decision,” said Kootenay-Columbia MP and NDP parks critic Wayne Stetski.

Mr. Stetski and Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reinhardt had earlier this year, in Ottawa, pressed the Ministry of Environment to resolve the issue one way or the other in a timely fashion.

“I’m happy to see (a decision) happened when it did,” said Mr. Stetski. “It’s been really frustrating to have a decision like this drag on as long as it did.”

“We’re happy and this can only be good. I’m quite relieved that a decision has been made because (the uncertainty) has impacted tourism here and that has impacted businesses in town. Anything that provides stability is going to be well-received,” said Mrs. Reinhardt.

Last winter, Parks had to temporarily change the hours of the cool pool on a few occasions, owing to a lack of staff. At the time, several local officials voiced concern that the uncertainty over the pools’ future may have contributed to the difficulty of keeping staff.

“We are hopeful that the certainty that this announcement brings will help us recruit and retain staff,” said Ms. Kwong...

Mr. Stetski said he hopes the announcement will result in funding for improvements at the hot springs and the south end of Kootenay National Park in general.

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