The LOA sector’s policy problem

October 26, 2020

When the pandemic struck, Canada shut down. As the days passed, some sectors deemed as essential by government officials were allowed to reopen. For the outdoor community, this took a really long time, if it even happened. Why does the Outdoor community have such a hard time being represented in policy?

When thinking about the health and wellbeing of a sector of society (sports, transportation, oil and gas), it is essential to have the support of the government. In Canada, as a federation, thus governmental responsibilities are often divided between federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government. In such a system, a healthy sector has mostly clear distinctions of who does what AND has institutionalized collaboration on areas where there is overlap.

In all the sectors previously mentioned (sports, oil and gas, transportation), the responsibilities are clear. This is not our case. For the outdoors, policy can be found, most of the time, under environment (parks), tourism, or recreation ministries. However, when looking at outdoor activities, especially Led Outdoor Activities, the areas of responsibility are scattered like the pieces of a puzzle that’s far from being solved. At the federal level and within most provinces, few policies address the needs of the outdoor sector directly. Most policies come down to permitting, land access and land management for conservation. There is no inter-ministerial collaboration within most provinces and there is no provincial-federal collaboration within the federation.

The path forward is clear. If the outdoor sector is to receive the funds and support necessary to thrive and bring more people outdoors, we must engage with the federal and all provincial governments. This engagement will lead to developing necessary policy and institutional frameworks. Examples of this framework can include a commission like the one for tourism, with goals of supporting cooperative relationships and providing information to the private sector and to the different governments of Canada.

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