Province increases annual park pass fee, moves sales online

Starting this summer, the province is charging more for an annual park pass and moving sales online, causing some businesses to forgo selling them.

The change came into effect on April 9 and includes hunting and fishing licenses. It was part of a set of bills that was passed during an emergency session in the legislature last week

The province said e-licensing will allow customers to immediately purchase and print passes, and reprint lost or damaged ones.

Annual park passes will now cost $44.50 instead of $40.00.  The province says the $4.50 increase will be used to support and enhance service delivery.

A provincial spokesperson said the e-licensing system was developed before the COVID-19 pandemic and was “welcomed by outdoor enthusiasts.”

“The Bill was passed unanimously, with all parties agreeing that now was also the time to reduce in person contact by providing an online option to purchase licenses and permits,” the spokesperson said in an email.

‘I can’t afford to’ 

Local businesses that want to sell passes must now do it through the e-licensing system.

Trudy Chezick owns Seven Sisters Motel and Restaurant, near the Whiteshell Provincial Park, has been selling park passes for 16 years.

“They’d send us the book, we would sell them and then we’d send them their money back,” she said.

In years past, a customer could buy a day, weekend, or annual pass to hang from their mirror, and be on their way.

Chezick said she’s not selling them this summer because her computer doesn’t support the e-licensing system to print off passes for customers.

“I can’t afford to. We’re not set up to do that kind of thing,” she said. “That’s pretty much out the window for most of us out this way.”

Businesses get $1 for every pass they sell and for shops that don’t have the infrastructure, setting it up isn’t worth it.  

“You need high-speed internet, which I don’t have at my place. We just can’t get it at where we are, so there’s no way I’m selling passes,” said Brett Haiko, owner of Caddy Lake Resort. 

Haiko says he thinks there should’ve been a hybrid system, where the government allows vendors to sell passes the traditional way, as well as online. 

“It will work well for everyone in the future, once they know they have to do it online,” he said.

“But for now, I think a lot of people don’t know that, so they’re going to come out expecting to be able to buy their park pass or fishing license and I’m not going to be able to sell it to them.” 

The province said Manitoba is one of the last Canadian jurisdictions to move to online sales.

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