While Wayne Stetski has been busy lately adjusting to his new role as Kootenay-Columbia MP, he has taken on another role within the NDP caucus.
Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair unveiled his shadow cabinet on Thursday, and Stetski was appointed as the critic for National Parks
“Based on my background, my experience and my interests, both personally and professionally, I had National Parks at the top of my list,” Stetski said.
“We are the riding that has the most number of national parks than any other riding in Canada. We’ve got four very large and important parks here in Kootenay-Columbia—Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier.”
Stetski said National Parks were hit hard through cuts to funding and staffing by the Conservative government over the last 10 years.
“It has been a very difficult time for national parks. In 2012, the national park budget was cut by the Conservatives by about $27 million. There were 106 staff affected in British Columbia that were laid off and 1,689 across Canada,” said Stetski. “In 2013, the Environment Commissioner warned that the Conservative cuts were jeopardizing the environmental health of national parks.”
Stetski added that the Environment Commissioner said 50 per cent of parks were not in good health, while roughly one-third were in serious decline. Half of National Park assets, such as picnic tables, campgrounds and signage, were ranked as poor or very poor, in a 2014 report, he continued.
“Overall there’s been a real cut and decline—both in the ecological health and the health of the facilities, which is important to visitors coming to national parks over the last 10 years under the Conservative government,” Stetski said.
Stetski will be looking at the Liberal government’s promises during the election and holding them to account. Liberal MP Catherine McKenna was recently unveiled as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Minister of Environment, which is responsible for national parks.
According to Stetski, Liberal promises include $25 million in annual funding to protect ecosystems and species at risk, reversing cuts implemented under the Conservative government and allowing limited development within national parks in consultation with neighbouring communities to encourage eco-tourism and job creation.
“Our job is to make sure they deliver on those promises and hopefully even more,” Stetski said.