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Parks Canada carnage sideswipes Jasper with nary a peep from local Tory MP

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Yellowhead MP Rob Merrifield

Where's Rob Merrifield, the Conservative MP for Yellowhead, the huge western Alberta riding that includes the town of Jasper?

I ask only because the massive job cuts at Parks Canada by the radical neo-Cons in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's misnamed Conservative government are really kicking the snot out of Jasper and have long-term implications for the wellbeing of the park.

So you'd think that the local Member of Parliament would have something to say about this. But, as far as I can see, Merrifield is nowhere to be seen or heard.

This is actually pretty typical of Alberta's vast army of Conservative MPs. They're all for "keeping taxes low," getting rid of the gun registry, fighting crime (usually in ways that actually assist crime, but never mind) and signing a free-trade agreement with Europe.

But when the going gets tough and the brainiacs in the Prime Minister's Office come up with a scheme like this one that really hurts their own constituents, these tough Tory MPs get gone … shopping maybe. Anyhoo, they're usually absent without leave from any local discussion of the topic.

So it's hardly surprising that there's nothing on Merrifield's website about the effects of the Parks Canada cutbacks on Jasper National Park or the Jasper townsite -- although all of the topics noted above were featured prominently there yesterday in a stream of news-free news bites.

Nor was Merrifield quoted in the local media's accounts of the Parks Canada carnage -- although that's not necessarily his fault given the supine approach most professional journalists around here take to reporting Harperite depredations. (This week the Edmonton Journal was bragging about how it won a Pulitzer Prize for courageously standing up to the provincial government’s attempt to stifle freedom of the press … in 1938.)

The Journal did provide some helpful details yesterday on the Parks Canada cuts -- trails let go to seed and weed, fewer patrols to protect both tourists and wildlife, and the sell-off of precious national properties with profit potential to "the private sector" for a song. (Well, the Journal didn't say anything about it being for a song, but trust me on that part.)

One in eight of the town's 340 Parks Canada employees will get it in this first round of slashing, the paper reported. Oh well, maybe they can get jobs fighting fires at the Jasper Park Lodge the next time it spontaneously bursts into flames.

This stuff is bad news if you’re a grizzly, a caribou or some other kind of endangered species -- your chances of being successfully hunted surreptitiously just went up considerably. It's bad news if you're a tourist lost on a trail -- you'll likely have to wait even longer to get rescued, or maybe even just die. It's bad news if you’re running a business in Jasper – because in the end this is going to result in fewer tourists spending less time there. It’s bad news if you live and work in Jasper – especially if you work for Parks Canada.

It’s good news, I suppose, if you don’t feel like paying the park fees at the gates – there hasn’t been much enforcement in this area for years and now there will be even less. It’ll operate on the honour system, I guess. Those of us who want to make sure there’s enough change collected for Ottawa to purchase a couple of extra F-35s can contribute voluntarily as we pass through the gates, and the rest of us can just tell the attendant we're "going through to Valemount." If there is an attendant, that is.

You'd think this would be something Merrifield -- the elected and well-paid federal representative for the town, after all -- would want to speak out about, if only to say, "How most unfortunate for you! Have I told you about the benefits of our new free-trade deal with Herzoslovakia?"

But no soap, apparently.

Oh well, we can only feel so sorry for ourselves when this happens in Alberta, the Canadian province that is worst served by its federal Members of Parliament -- with only about one notable exception, and that would be the NDP member for Edmonton-Strathcona. (Linda Duncan does prove one bit of Tory dogma has a little truth to it: when it comes to politics, anyway, competition is good.)

Basically, we barely hear from most of these Conservatives, except when they’re jumping into the provincial fray and telling us we ought to vote for the market-fundamentalist Wildrose Party. Sometimes I wonder if their lackadaisically open neglect is a part of a cleverly thought-out plot on their part to persuade us that our taxes are a waste of money.

But since we keep electing them with metronomic regularity, we can hardly complain about it, can we?

Merrifield's tame Wikipedia page boasts about the important role he played as Minister of State for Transport, a position he no longer occupies, in "revitalizing Marine Atlantic with two new ferries."

Well! Anchors aweigh! Having grown up on an island, I can vouch for the fact that's a good thing. But perhaps the good people of Jasper and the nearby towns just outside the park gates should ask themselves this: "What he has done for us lately?"

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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