Petition campaign ‘Restore Hours & Services’ concluded
The petition campaign “Restore Hours & Services’ to Historic Canals concluded on October 19 on board of the Kawartha Spirit in Bobcaygeon.
Boaters and representatives from the ‘Voices of the Trent’; the ‘Water Advisory Board to the Trent-Severn Waterway’ and cottage associations as well as members of the business community joined Christine Collins, National President of UCTE (Union of Canadian Transportation Employees) and Ralf Bucherer, the President of the Local representing employees working for the Trent-Severn Waterway, for the official hand-off of the petition to a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
Dan Harris, MP Scarborough Southwest, accepted the petition that was started by Local 56 UCTE on the Trent- Severn Waterway and spread to the Rideau and the Chambly Canals.
Ralf Bucherer pointed out that the nearly 4000 signatures collected, are only a fraction of how supporters expressed their displeasure at the cuts to hours and services by Parks Canada.
In addition there were some 1200 complaints filed under the Public Complaint process. Supporters also wrote countless letters to Park Canada’s CEO and the minister of the environment and many took to social media like Facebook and Twitter to make their concerns heard.
Dan Harris acknowledged the important role these Canals have been playing for the communities along these canals as well as the people living and working in them and the historic significance of these Canals to all Canadians.
Whereas this ‘battle’ has drawn to an end, the fight for Canada’s Historic Canals and communities is far from being over as many of the supporters pointed out in an ‘open mic’ session after the hand-off.
All in attendance shared the need to keep up the pressure during the off season and to ensure there will be a clear message about hours and services in place well ahead of the 2014 season.
Christine Collins informed everyone that in the spring the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees submitted a policy paper to Parks Canada calling for the creation of a SOA (Special Operating Agency) for Canals under Transport Canada.
This SOA would allow not only for greater input by, but also the participation of stakeholders and special interest groups.
Unlike MP Barry Devolin’s private members’ bill C-530, that calls for only the Trent-Severn Waterway, to be removed from Parks Canada, the SOA proposed by UCTE would include all Historic Canals (Trent-Severn Waterway, Rideau Canal, Chambly Canal).
One idea in the private member’s bill, charging registered boats a fee for the usage of the waters maintained by the canals, seemed to resonate well with boaters. Boaters and residents along the canals are beginning to realize that everyone benefits from water management, regardless of if they are using the locks or not.
The fee could be staggered for different vessels sizes, or flat across the board and would, at e.g. $50/year, generate more than the current operating budget of the TSW and could replace lockage fees altogether. However it would require the cooperation of many levels of government.
Al Heritage representing ‘Voices of the Trent’ during the hand-off, pointed out some of the broken promises by MPs, past and present ones, along the TSW, as well as studies being done and re-done without being acted upon.
He also mentioned an Auditor General’s report that identified over $700 million in deferred maintenance and the response by Allan Latourelle, CEO for Parks Canada, when asked about this, saying “…there are only $92 million available for all of Parks’ capital projects and $21 million are already going to rebuilding the dam at Bolsover.”
This led to supporters expressing their safety concerns. The Minden flood earlier this year was mentioned, but also safety concerns at individual lock stations.
Many lock stations are staffed with only one operator and a summer student, or are part of a complex in which two operators take care of multiple locks. In some cases this can be as few as two or three locks or, due to staffing shortages, up to five locks.
Staff speeding from lock station to lock station across public roads, skipping lunches and breaks in order to keep up with boats, are a real concern to many boaters.
All in attendance agreed that although the 2013 season has come to an end, it will be imperative to keep up the pressure with MPs, Parks Canada and the Minister during the off-season.
Copyright 2010 Lakefield Herald Ltd.
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