Posted on: April 17, 2019 | MPPCOA News
Mr. Chairman, Honoured Guests, and fellow WCA members,
Report from the Manitoba Provincial Park Cabin Owners Association MPPCOA
Our current MPPCOA President, Dean Amundson, from the historic Hecla Association of Cottagers, is currently sailing up the east coast on his way home from the warm waters of the Caribbean. He asked me to stand in for him.
Let me start with a “bitter” reminder of what at best can be described as a stalemate between Parks and Provincial Parks Cottagers over fees and lease rates that has lasted most of the last 40 years.
Over all these years, and until recently, in the famous words from Cool Hand Luke:
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,”
Apart from an occasional spasm of increased fees, there has been stagnation, with no winners and only losers. As a result, the government is always playing “catch up” for the resources they need to properly operate the park, and we the cottagers are left with hard feelings over the lack of a fair process for determining fees and lease rates over time and an inevitable sense of fending off the big pocket picker.
The year 2013 marked a crisis in this dysfunctional relationship; when the previous government arbitrarily and without so much as a “how-do-you-do”, announced an extraordinary increase in lease and service fees for all provincial park cottagers. Some cottagers accustomed to paying in the range of $1000 per year for rent and service found themselves liable to paying up to $7000 per year. Anyone remember that?
“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” ― Samuel Johnson,
So this remarkable overreach did manage to focus our minds on three objectives for the future:
1) Build a better relationship between Parks and Cottagers
Whatever else happened, a better relationship, built on trust and open communication needed to be established between Parks Branch and provincial cottagers. The current “Guiding Principle” for our ongoing consultation, developed jointly with Parks, is the positive outcome of that objective. Communication is a two way street, and I am happy to report that Parks Branch has so far met us at least half way in the process of relationship building. I particularly credit Parks Director Rob Nedotiafko with spearheading this dramatic change in approach.
2) Build a coalition unifying all Provincial Park Cottagers
The voices of provincial park cottagers needed to be unified, both so that Parks could consult with a single unified group of cottagers and so that Cottagers would not be victimized by any government’s traditional adoption of the “divide and conquer” principle.
MPPCOA is now a vibrant umbrella association representing about 5000 of the approximately 6000 cottages ( and growing) of all Manitoba provincial park cottagers. The participating nine Cottage Associations are:
Hecla Historic Village,
Wallace Lake and WCA.
The remaining few cottage associations are actively considering membership, with the persistent encouragement of Ron Smith.
Given that these 5000 (or more) members of MPPCOA are all “family cottages” in the Manitoba tradition, we estimate that our membership represents at least 20,000 individuals, most of them living in the city of Winnipeg and of voting age.
3) Focus on development of a fair and open fee management process
A method of calculating total fees needs to be based upon an open and regulated process…so that cottagers can support needed expenditures in the parks (what we call paying our fair share), yet not be subject to arbitrary and/or unfair increases in fees and rents.
This objective is still a work in progress, but in the last couple of years there has been significant progress.
The numerous monthly meetings over the past years with Parks Staff, the Executive of MPPCOA and a group of “experts” representing the interests of cottagers has been
a true consultation
an open minded, systematic review of models.
The work has been based on actual data provided by Parks.
The result is a jointly developed proposal that lays the groundwork for this final objective; a fair and open ongoing process to determine and communicate cottagers contribution to Parks in the form of rent and services.
This model is now in the hand of the Minister and Senior Management of Parks, where we hope it is receiving a positive reading and forming the basis of a permanent solution to this longstanding problem.
I take considerable comfort from the words of Minister Squires: (read from April Echo…”Our ongoing discussions with the Manitoba Provincial Parks Cabin Owners Association (MPPCOA) on future concepts and models for cottager lease and service fees remain to be positive, focussed and productive and are a priority for our government. We will continue to engage to arrive at a fair approach going forward..”)
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
Thank you Mr Chairman, and I turn the lectern back to you.
Daniel Klass (Advisory Committee Chair, MPPCOA)