01/11/2013 03:12 EST | Updated 01/14/2013 03:44 EST

Miette Hot Springs Privatization Plans Meet Concern


JASPER, Alta. _ Concern is mounting over the federal government's plans to privatize a number of hot springs in national parks.

Residents of Jasper, Alta., attended a public forum this week and most said they're opposed to the idea.

The plan affects Miette Hot Springs near Jasper, as well as the Banff Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park.

Parks Canada is not selling the operations but will be leasing them to private companies.

The government department says any private operators will have to conform to certain environmental and operations criteria.

Those opposed to the move are asking Canadians to contact their local MPs in a fight to keep the hot springs under the Parks Canada flag.

`"The parks were created when the hot springs were discovered,"' said Marianne Hladun of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "So really, the hot springs were the whole base of the parks system of Canada."

The union is worried privatizing the facilities could lead to a rise in prices and job losses.

"Currently the hot springs are revenue neutral, and in fact brought in over a million dollars to the taxpayer coffers," said Hladun. "It's not a money-losing operation."

Tracey Thiessen of Parks Canada agreed the hot springs have operated on a break-even basis, but she said the decision was based on business.

"The private sector has better access to capital, a flare for innovation and certainly the flexibility to take these hot pools into the next phase of their existence," said Thiessen.

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