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Op-ed: Muni needs to handle land-use policies

Jasper has perhaps one of the oddest arrangements in Canada when it comes to land-use planning and development.

Rather than the municipal government handling zoning and development permits, a federal agency (specifically, Parks Canada) has been given this mandate for Jasper.

Two recent incidents have made it abundantly clear why this arrangement is dysfunctional.

Parks Canada had proposed amendments to private home accommodation requirements with the Jasper Land Use Policy.

Among other changes, this would have prohibited kitchens and independent access, potentially forcing many residents to close their private home accommodations.

Then there was a proposed ban on patio tents, which would have impeded the ability of many restaurants to offer outdoor seating for their customers.

Parks Canada has since backed down from these proposals, at least for now.

This comes as a relief to many businesses, but it is nonetheless indicative of how Parks Canada is not institutionally equipped to handle land-use planning and development.

Similar to Banff, which is also located in a national park, Jasper should have its municipal government be responsible for this.

Although this has been pursued for the past two decades, this goal may finally be reached as the municipality and Parks Canada have agreed to co-review the governance agreement.

Not only would municipal autonomy reduce the headaches of businesses, it could help promote the development of more housing.

Whether it’s warding away grizzly bears or putting out wildfires, Parks Canada provides a valuable service to Jasper and the surrounding area.

That’s why it’s important for the agency to hand over the reins for land-use policy so it can stick to what it does best.

Peter Shokeir

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