Let B.C. camp: Families should always have a space in provincial parks

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: Hitting the road to camp in a B.C. provincial park isn’t really Christy Clark’s style.

You’re more likely to find the premier flying by private jet instead of getting behind the wheel to explore our beautiful province this summer – she’s racked up more than half a million dollars in private flights since becoming premier.

Maybe that’s why she’s done nothing to protect one of British Columbia’s great summer traditions: packing up the family, driving to one of our incredible provincial parks, and spending a few nights sleeping under the stars.

Since the B.C. Liberals have been in government, they’ve eliminated 3,000 drive-in campsites, the number of B.C. park rangers has fallen by 75 per cent, and the spending in parks has dropped by a quarter. Today, we have seven park rangers patrolling an area the size of Greece.

At the same time, Christy Clark has raised camping fees multiple times, and plans to continue to hike fees in the years ahead.

She just doesn’t get it. It’s another example of how the B.C. Liberals have turned their backs on families in this province.

This week I’m on the road, driving Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to Prince George in an RV. Like many families who hit the road in August, I’m staying at campsites all along the way.

We live in an amazingly beautiful province. As a New Democrat, I believe every British Columbian should have the opportunity to enjoy the public resources we all pay for, like our parks – just like I believe that the opportunity to thrive and succeed in our province shouldn’t be limited by your bank balance or your political connections.

But that’s not how Christy Clark sees it.

In Christy Clark’s B.C., life is getting easier for the premier’s friends and insiders – the people sitting next to her at $20,000-per-plate fundraising dinners, flying with her in her private jet, or enjoying the billion-dollar tax break for millionaires she rolled out in her last budget.

But life in this province is getting harder for regular people and working families, because time and time again, Christy Clark is raising costs first and putting people last.

Not only have the B.C. Liberals hiked camping fees and starved budgets in our provincial parks, they’ve allowed the simple act of booking a campsite to become nearly impossible in many areas of the province.

As soon as B.C.’s Discover Camping online reservation system opened bookings for the season, my colleagues and I started to hear from frustrated people across the province.

What they described sounded more like trying to get tickets to that concert everyone wants to see than booking a campsite at a provincial park: waiting online for the moment campsites were released, scrambling to get a reservation, and coming away empty-handed.

Turns out that the B.C. Liberals closed campsites and shortened camping seasons across the province at the same time as more families were looking for an affordable local vacation.

British Columbians are the ones who pay for these parks, and they are paying more than ever. Campsite fees across the province have been rising steadily over the last decade and half, making camping both less accessible and less affordable.

Every year, the B.C. Liberals make it harder to afford to live here, and harder to access the services we all depend on.

People are staggering under a double blow: flat wage growth and bigger bills from the B.C. Liberal government. Hydro rates are up 74 per cent, ICBC premiums up 30 per cent, and both look likely to rise again in the near future. Bus fares are up, ferry fares are up, and tuition is way up.

At the same time, Christy Clark ignored the affordable housing crisis in this province until it was out of control, sending rents and home prices through the roof, and she has done nothing to curb the rising fees that are making childcare and health care less and less accessible to regular families.

Again and again, the premier has failed to keep her election promise to put B.C. families first.

So when it comes to making sure British Columbians always have a spot in our provincial parks, don’t expect Christy Clark to care. It’s just not her style.