Money troubles at Gwaii Haanas

  • Dec. 22, 2006 8:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Half a million dollars owing in staff back pay has left Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in a severe money crunch, triggering cutbacks to visitor information centres, the office in Sandspit and to Parks jobs themselves. After a years long review process at Parks Canada, 70-percent of local staff had their positions reclassified and were given raises says Ernie Gladstone, superintendent of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. The increases are retroactive back to 1999 and will end up costing about $170,000 a year. Trouble is, the federal government only provided funding for the first two years of the increase. That leaves several years of back pay and all future increases to come out of the $3.7 million a year the park reserve/heritage site receives in operational funding. The outcome for staff and the local economy is very positive, but it has left management scrambling for ways to cut costs, says Mr. Gladstone. One casualty is the office at the airport in Sandspit. The hanger-like space, which is used by the wardens to store field equipment, was once staffed by a team of wardens. Mr. Gladstone says the cost of maintaining the office including a lease from Transport Canada costs the park reserve and Haida heritage site $30,000 a year. Gwaii Haanas also has a large maintenance compound near the forestry building in Queen Charlotte, so equipment will be moved there. Only one biologist works out of the Sandspit office now. Mr. Gladstone says they are still looking for an office for him. “We’re trying to do this in a way that doesn’t impact the community,” he says. Rather than one arm of the federal government leasing from another, Mr. Gladstone says they will look for a smaller space in the community. Management has also decided to sell a Sandspit house previously occupied by a warden who left in the summer of 2005. Another cost-saving strategy is to not fill vacant positions at Gwaii Haanas. Mr. Gladstone says management is taking a hard look at positions that open up and have tried to postpone hiring. Other ways to achieve the savings include relocating to the Haida Heritage Centre at Qay’llnagaay. Mr. Gladstone would not reveal how much rent they pay in their current space above City Centre in Queen Charlotte, but he said once the facility is complete, Parks Canada will have provided a total of $6-million to the new heritage centre. Three million was for the administration space, $1.45 million for shared interpretive space and $1.55 million directly toward exhibits. He says this funding is separate from the annual operating budget of Gwaii Haanas. The funding included a 30-year lease, so no rent, only utilities will be paid once the staff move in in the new year. Mr. Gladstone is also reviewing the financial commitment to the visitor information centres in Sandspit and Queen Charlotte. When the commitment was first made in the 1988 South Moresby Agreement, Parks Canada built and then supported the two centres with $120,000 each per year. Mr. Gladstone says the deal was the centres were supposed to find their own funding and reduce their reliance on Parks. Over the years the funding has reduced, but Parks Canada still provided $45,000 to the Queen Charlotte Visitor Information Centre in 2005 and the same to Sandspit. He is encouraging other uses of the centres to help try to get the Parks funding down to zero. When they were built, he says the idea was the centres would become community centres in the off-season, as well as information centres. The Sandspit VIC was wired as a classroom space, but is not used for anything else and is closed for the winter. Gwaii Haanas spends $2.5 million a year on salaries and wages for 33 full-time staff and eight seasonal workers. The operating budget also covers $320,000 a year for the Haida Watchmen program.

Just Posted

Subsea internet cable to link up Haida Gwaii

Cable to connect Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast with mainland network

Tlellagraph: Sweet tips for beating the big SAD monster

By Janet Rigg Well, how are we all doing? 2018 appears to… Continue reading

Northwest economy remains uncertain

The Northern Development Initiative Trust releases its State of the North economic report

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with First Nations government

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

Photos: Ts’aahl wins super-close Clan Tournament

Three games finished in overtime. In the semi-final, the defending Clan Tournament… Continue reading

B.C. cougar kitten rescued after mother struck by vehicle

Conservation Officers find home for young kitten found dehydrated and frostbitten near Williams Lake

High-end whisky seized in B.C. bar raids

Raids end in seizures at Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver whisky joints

Double-doubles and demonstrations: Employees rally outside Tim Hortons

Protests held in response to Ontario franchise owners cutting employee benefits and breaks

Train derails in Northwest B.C.

CN reports no injuries or dangerous goods involved after coal train derailment.

Las Vegas shooter acted alone, exact motive still undetermined: Sheriff

Stephen Paddock was behind the gunfire that killed 58 people including two Canadians

Botox, bomb shelters, and the blues: one year into Trump presidency

A look into life in Washington since Trump’s inauguration

Christopher Garnier appealing murder conviction in death of off-duty cop

Jury found Garnier guilty in December, rejecting his claim she died accidentally during rough sex

Transportation watchdog must revisit air passenger obesity complaint

Canadian Transportation Agency must take new look at Gabor Lukacs’ complaint against Delta Air Lines

Gas plants verdict coming down today; ex-premier’s top aides to learn fate

Verdict to be delivered on senior staff to former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty

Most Read