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Four parks, $24.6 million
Recently released report highlights the economic impact of territory's national parks

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 5, 2011

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
Parks Canada spent nearly $17 million in the NWT in 2008-2009, according to a recently released report, and park visitors spent an estimated $7.6 million.

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Ski enthusiasts get ready for a tour around Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park, one of the territory's four national parks. In 2008-2009, national park visitors spent a total of $7.6 million in the NWT. - photo courtesy of Parks Canada

The Economic Impact of Parks Canada, prepared by the Outspan Group for the federal government, details the direct and indirect affects of the territory's four national parks Aulavik, Tuktuk Nogait, Wood Buffalo and Nahanni.

Jackie Challis, economic development officer for the Town of Inuvik, said she wasn't surprised by the results.

"(Parks visitors) don't just pay the park fees. They come, they have to fly here, they probably buy crafts here, they'll probably stay a few nights here. Even if they're camping, they'll stay in our campgrounds, go to our stores, buy their food here. Just like any tourist, their footprint is broader than just a fee that they pay to a tour operator or to a park entry fee," she said.

Parks Canada spending nationwide totalled more than $587 million in 2008-2009, according to the report, and visitor spending totalled nearly $2.7 billion.

With the exception of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, visitor spending contributed more to the local economy than spending by Parks Canada.

Challis said the cost of travel in the North, as well as the remoteness of the parks, was the likely cause.

"We're in a different position here in the NWT. It's not like in Jasper where you can just drive your car through a national park," she said.

The report also highlighted other positive aspects of Parks Canada's presence in the North, from representing a "face" of the federal government to offering employment to local people and purchasing goods and services locally.

Nearly 100 people are employed by Parks Canada in the territory, with wages and salaries totalling $7.7 million, according to the report. The remaining $10 million was spent on a variety of costs ranging from travel to supplies.

"Having the (Parks Canada) Western Arctic field unit based here in Inuvik, we see that," Challis said. "They have workers here, they build families here, so they're certainly an integral part of our community."

In response to the report, Peter Kent, minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced that the federal government will continue a fee freeze at Parks Canada sites. Fees currently remain at 2008 levels.

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