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Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Cuts are a Disaster July 5, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Uffish Thoughts.
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Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Cuts are a Disaster
By Dan Davidson
May 10, 2012, Star May 11/12
– 725 words –

The news from Parks Canada last week could have been worse. Dawson could have been hit like Louisbourg, Cape Breton’s crown jewel of Parks restoration and interpretation. There they lost ten full time positions. That might seem better than the twelve we lost in the Klondike, but with it went the announcement that there would be a shorter season for 110 seasonal employees.
Why so many? Well, at Louisbourg they’ve reconstructed something like a quarter of the old French fort and town, and the interpretation style they use is to have it occupied by people in costume who are doing things that would have been done at the time: carding wool, spinning, carpentry, making things, These are seasonal jobs in an area of high unemployment. They are also student jobs. A shorter season means less chance of qualifying for Employment Insurance in the fall and a smaller bank balance to see a person through the winter, either as a resident or as a student.
In addition, quite a few of these jobs are actually part of the annual maintenance routine that is very much needed at a site that suffers from the same seacoast deterioration that plagued the place when it was new. Repairs are a constant necessity there.
Maintaining artifacts is a constant challenge anywhere, and the Yukon will now be without any specialists in this area as a result of the cutbacks that have been imposed. Parks has the largest collection of material in the territory and there will not be anyone on staff who knows the collection. Institutional memory will be lost.
So far the public statements on this matter have been nothing short of fatuous. This distresses me on several levels, not the least of which is that I am acquainted with the people who have made them and have more respect for their intelligence than that.
When Parks Field Unit Superintendent Ann Morin writes to Dawson’s town council that recent actions (i.e. – layoffs) have been taken to “improve internal efficiencies, and reduce costs while focusing on agency priorities and quality service delivery to Canadians” I do realize that she is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. I also realize that she is not in a position to bite the hand that is feeding her. She has been given her orders and has carried them out as instructed.
It does not make the weasel wording any less annoying.
From our MP, Ryan Leef, comes the surprising news that living corporate memory is not important. His comments on the layoffs seem to imply that the various experts in the Parks family have been doing us a disservice by accumulating expertise and experience and, in his words, locking it up in their heads.
Mr. Leef in his various incarnations, from the RCMP to forestry officer to correctional services officer, runner, mixed martial arts contestant, and newly minted Member of Parliament has surely, at some point, run across the notion of mentoring. That’s when a living, breathing person who knows more about your subject than you do, takes you in hand and brings you along to make you the next generation of expert.
Mr. Leef says directly that “archiving this information and being able to have it documented” is sufficient; that it avoids the pitfalls of having experts with information locked in their heads and actually improves on the preservation of our heritage.
This is patent nonsense. While documents and records are useful, the last step in transmitting knowledge between the generations of persons entrusted with safeguarding our institutions requires people with experience who are willing and able to pass on what they know about sites, operations and history to those who will carry on when they are gone.
When you wipe out the entire Yukon curatorial staff of Parks Canada you sabotage that process.
When you toe the party line and make implausible excuses for actions which actually harm the territory, you are making the same mistake you accused your predecessor of making in terms of the long gun registry – putting the needs of the party before the needs of your constituents.
Parks Canada cuts are a disaster for the Yukon. Any attempt to explain them away just rubs salt in the wound.

-30-

Photo:
* Dredge #4.jpg – After spending vast sums of money to repair Dredge #4 and make it safe for guided tours, Parks Canada will be reducing it to self-guided status with signs in the parking lot starting next summer.

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