The 2018 federal budget features a cross-country perk for youth 17 and under: access to all Canadian national parks, free of charge, fulfilling a promise made in 2017 to keep national parks free for kids.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, youth aged 17 and under have permanent free access to all federal parks, historic sites, and marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada.

"This budget recognizes something that every Canadian understands: that our quality of life, and our present and our future prosperity, is deeply connected to the environment in which we live," Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in his 2018 budget speech on Tuesday.

"The extraordinary beauty of Canada’s nature, parks, and wild spaces – these are central to our identity as Canadians."

When the federal government released its 2017 national parks "Discovery Pass" to commemorate Canada 150, millions of Canadians took the opportunity to visit the country’s national parks at no charge, Morneau said.

"Some parks were so busy that they had to turn people away,” he added.

While some have praised the free admissions, others say it could be problematic – and possibly harmful – for the preservation of national parks.

"Extending free admissions to everyone would be bad for Canada’s National Parks," Greg Pyle, biology professor at the University of Lethbridge, said in a tweet. "If last year was any indication, there’d be huge crowds, trampled landscapes, lots of trash in otherwise pristine areas, and harassed wildlife."

Although park admissions will be free for youth 17 and under, regular fees will still apply for specific services and features, including:

  • camping and backcountry accommodations;
  • access to the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs;
  • guided tours and hikes;
  • firewood;
  • mooring; and
  • overnight use of backcountry, among others.

In conjunction with the free admissions, Morneau also announced an investment of $1.3 billion to conserve and protect Canadian waters, land, and biodiversity.