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Public-Private Partnerships Foreseen as Manitoba Leases Park to Private Company

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Manitoba’s decision to transfer the management of St. Ambroise provincial park to a private operator could be a hint of what’s to be, a report said.

A briefing note from the government, which the Opposition New Democrats obtained through a Freedom of Information request, describes the commercial leasing for St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park as a “template for future potential partnerships in parks.”

The document provides an example of a P3 partnership where the private and public sectors cooperate to manage public infrastructure and/or provide services.

NDP environment critic Lisa Naylor on Thursday said that the lease of St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park located 80 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg isn’t an example to follow.

She claims that the St. Ambroise lease attempts to privatize provincial parks. The government has denied the allegations in every way.

“The operator privately operates the campground, sets their own rates to rent campsites and day permits,” she said after the NDP presented the internal briefing note during the question period.

“And as we have just heard in this House—of course, this was the game plan; it was always the game plan.”

The lease agreement came into effect this year.

There was a ruckus in the spring when visitors to St. Ambroise discovered their provincial park permits were ineligible to enter the park. The government stated that all confusion has been addressed, and the passes work.

The park is also not sold because Manitoba retains ownership of the park. The government has stood by its decision to lease the park and says that a local operator is renovating a park devastated by floods in the past decade.

“The province’s partnership with this service provider is enabling St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park to be revitalized and to recover from the previous damage, and ensures Manitobans have access to nature there while enjoying its services and facilities and supporting economic development as part of Manitoba’s pandemic recovery efforts,” said a government statement from June.

According to the province, other provincial parks also have arrangements in which a service company charges camping fees.

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