Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage to respond to the comments made by my hon. colleague, the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake.
The question is very timely, I am pleased to say. The Minister of Canadian Heritage today is signing with her provincial counterpart an agreement to create Wapusk National Park near Churchill, Manitoba.
Members know that these are challenging times and Parks Canada has to do its share. By 1998-99, federal funding to Parks Canada will be reduced by $98 million. This means its appropriation will go down to $259 million.
Parks Canada is offsetting these reductions somewhat through its cost recovery efforts. While revenues will reach $64 million by 1998-99, they do not offset cuts of this magnitude.
Parks Canada is committed to achieving these reductions while maintaining its core mandate to provide for the use and enjoyment of all Canadians a system of national parks, national historic sites and related protected areas and to manage these places in a manner that leaves them unimpaired for future generations. Parks Canada will continue to secure and set aside parks and sites for future generations.
Given the economic impact of parks and sites, the government intends to keep the parks and sites open for the enjoyment of all Canadians and for our international visitors.
To achieve the level of reductions we are considering a number of options. And in keeping with the direction the federal government has adopted under program review, Parks Canada is reducing its involvement in direct delivery of services.
One option that is now being pursued by Parks Canada is employee takeovers. Treasury Board released a government-wide employee takeover policy on February 22, 1996. It is an innovative policy outlining an effective option for service delivery.
The minister has already indicated to the member and he alluded to the fact that we are studying other options besides this one. The minister is determined to adopt an approach or approaches which will be best for the staff while achieving reductions and preserve the Parks Canada mandate for all Canadians.