A couple of letters from Alberta and British Columbia make me wonder if our provincial government, which talks a lot about dismantling interprovincial economic barriers, has goofed by sticking it to tourists and expats who come to camp in Saskatchewan Provincial Parks, writes a columnist with The Star Phoenix.
The parks’ Web site states, in part: “As of March 5, 2010, a differential fee rate is in effect for all out-of-province visitors to Saskatchewan provincial parks; the cost of a campsite will increase modestly to visitors who reside outside Saskatchewan.” For details, click here.
Deb Ochitwa of Strathmore, Alberta, was born and raised in Saskatchewan, but has lived in Alberta for years.
“For almost every year for the past 20 years, I have really looked forward to my camping vacation and visiting with family in Saskatchewan,” she wrote. “I recently received a letter from Saskatchewan Tourism informing me that ‘out of province’ visitors will be paying more in camping fees to use the parks.”
Ochitwa feels insulted and is reconsidering where she and her family will spend their future vacations: “I guess the government doesn’t want visitors and the vacation dollars they willingly spend while in that awesome province.”
Larry and Betty Pollard of Cumberland, B.C. take a similar position.
Larry, also an expat Saskatchewanian, wrote that they’d visited his hometown of Blaine Lake and were taking the northern route back when they decided to stop at a favourite old haunt, Meadow Lake Provincial Park, to spend a few days camping and touring.
Having paid $7 to enter the park with their truck and camper, they got to the campground, where a friendly staff member welcomed them and began to fill out the registration form.
“I asked for a no-power site and she said, no problem, that will be $17 a night. The nice lady then said she would need to see my driver’s license as they were keeping track of where people were from and who was using their camping facilities.”
That’s when the Pollards learned they’d have to cough up an extra $4. When he asked why, she told him: “Well, the people of Saskatchewan pay taxes, some of which is applied to operate the campgrounds, and they feel that others who don’t pay these taxes should pay their fair share.”
Larry writes he was “flabbergasted.” He notes he pays taxes in B.C., where there’s no charge to enter the parks that are supported by his tax dollars and where tourists aren’t penalized.
“I mentioned to her that we have many more campers in our campsites who are from Saskatchewan, way more than I have seen B.C. plates in yours.” The next day the Pollards “hopped over” to Alberta, where the camping fee is a flat $21 a night.
“It’s not the money,” he writes. “It’s the principle.”
It’s hard to disagree. For the extra four bucks a night that Saskatchewan makes by dinging such visitors, what’s the cost of the Pollards and others “hopping over to Alberta” on principle or of the Ochitwas deciding to spend their vacation somewhere else? They do have attractive options, especially in B.C.
Just a tongue-in-cheek comment, but maybe Alberta should surcharge those tens of thousands of expats from the Wheat Province who surge into Commonwealth Stadium (Edmonton) and McMahon Stadium (Calgary) to cheer on their ever lovin’ Rough Riders…but out here in the Wild West we’re downright friendly—we wouldn’t insult our neighbors like that.
Give your head a shake, Saskatchewan! Discouraging tourism based on some misguided idea of tax equity, is just plain dumb?
Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save fuel, take your next trip in kilometres.
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