Exceptions are not an option
Policies exist for a reason. They are there to shape what is and is not acceptable. They are there to guide governments through tough decisions. And they are there to ensure fairness and due process.
Of course, as with all other things, policies must also be revisited and amended from time to time to keep up with the ever changing times, but those changes are not to be made lightly.
Making an exception or wide sweeping amendment can have far-reaching effects.
And that’s something that Jasper could see in the not-so-distant future, if Parks Canada approves Maligne Tours’ proposal to construct a three-storey, 66-room heritage lodge on its existing leasehold.
That decision would be an exception to a longstanding policy that states no new outlying commercial accommodations will be considered within the park.
That policy can be found in the 2007 Redevelopment Guidelines for Outlying Commercial Accommodations and Hostels in the Mountain National Parks (OCA Guidelines).
During Maligne Tours’ public consultation last week, Amber Stewart of Parks Canada said that the agency is considering the proposal because it meets other park objectives.
Those include visitor experience, as well as cultural and environmental stewardship, opportunities.
The question, though, is do those benefits outweigh the risks of approving overnight accommodation at Maligne Lake?
The precedent that Parks would set by making such an exception could easily result in proposals from other businesses and corporations looking to profit from the park. Jasperites have seen that already—it only took Maligne Tours a year after the Glacier Skywalk was approved to announce its own intentions for a development proposal.
Parks’ policies are in place to limit the growth of our town and park to ensure the protection of our wild spaces and wildlife. If the agency is planning to hold true to its mandate of protection and maintenance of ecological integrity, exceptions to longstanding policies on limited development are not an option.