Up to $9.5 billion needed to repair Parks Canada properties: report
People skate at Paterson Creek on the Rideau Canal Skateway on its opening day, in Ottawa on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:36PM EDT
Parks Canada will need to spend up to as much as $9.5 billion to repair approximately 40 per cent of its properties, including buildings, bridges, roads, forts, and dams, which have fallen into disrepair, according to a report.
The government agency manages 16,618 real estate and infrastructure assets, including 46 national parks, one national urban park, four marine conservation areas, 171 national historic sites, and nine historic canals.
In 2017, Parks Canada paid $1 million to commission the New Zealand-based engineering consultancy firm WSP-Opus to look into the state of its assets and calculate the cost of maintaining those properties in the long term.
In a statement on why it was commissioning the report, Parks Canada said the breadth of variety and widespread locations of its assets have resulted in “unique management challenges” and it was undertaking a review of its properties to ensure long-term sustainability down the road.
“Under-investment has been a chronic issue impeding the sound and consistent life cycle management of the portfolio,” the statement read.
WSP-Opus inspected 252 assets at 15 locations in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta as part of its sample.
In its findings, summarized in a report dated September 2018, the consultancy firm found that of Park Canada’s total properties:
- 26 per cent were in good condition
- 36 per cent were in fair condition
- 40 per cent were in poor or very poor condition
The WSP-Opus report stated that Parks Canada had deferred an estimated $4.6 billion to $9.5 billion worth of work in terms of maintenance, repairs, renewals, and replacements.
This is despite an injection of $2.8 billion in infrastructure funding Parks Canada received as part of the 2014 budget and the Federal Infrastructure Initiative. In the 2017 budget, the agency received another $364 million to develop a medium and long-term plan for the management of its assets.
The report also said Parks Canada should spend an additional $1.66 billion to $3.3 billion to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as flooding and forest fires, on its properties.
Another additional expense for the agency would be to improve accessibility for visitors with disabilities at its parks and sites. WSP-Opus estimates this could cost an estimated $428 million.
According to the consultancy firm, Parks Canada would have to spend $24 billion to replace all of its assets. That’s a substantially higher estimate than the $18 billion noted in the government agency’s 2017 Asset Report Card.
In order to maintain its assets in the future, WSP-Opus said Parks Canada will need to spend between $825 and $900 million every year.
Stephanie McGlashan, a spokesperson for Parks Canada, said in an emailed statement that the federal infrastructure investment program, which aims to restore and improve the condition of its properties, has been underway in national parks and historic sites since 2015.
McGlashan noted that the 2017 review completed by WSP-Opus took place in the program’s second year, when most projects were getting underway or hadn’t been started yet. The spokesperson said approximately 48 per cent of the projects have now been completed.
“With the federal infrastructure investment program still on-going and many projects yet to be completed, a greater number of assets will have their condition improved at the conclusion of the program,” McGlashan wrote.
Parks Canada is also in the process of developing a long-term plan to sustain its infrastructure projects, the statement said.
“As part of this work, Parks Canada is exploring a number of options for maintaining its assets over the long-term. These efforts, as well as information obtained through reports such as the National Asset Review 2017, will inform the ongoing development of plans and strategies for the long-term management of Parks Canada’s assets,” the spokesperson wrote.