Public Values

How do we say goodbye to our heritage?

Conservative budget cuts to Parks Canada threaten Trent-Severn Waterway communities.

Bucherer: Some US boating magazines warn boaters not to travel Canadian canals due to uncertainties.by Ralf Bucherer

June 13, 2012: This letter was sent to the Hon. Patrick Brown, MP Barrie, the Hon. Barry Devolin, MP Haliburton- Kawartha Lakes-Brock, the Hon. Peter Kent, MP, Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Dean del Mastro, MP Peterborough, the Hon. Rick Norlock, MP Northumberland-Quinte West and the Hon. Bruce Stanton, MP Simcoe North.

A few weeks ago, papers and airwaves were filled with news about cuts to public services, with Parks Canada being particularly hard-hit. One of these announcements was the proposed cuts by Parks Canada to the operating hours and length of the season for the Trent-Severn Waterway.

It has been a few weeks since the 2012 park season opened with Peter Kent, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, welcoming visitors on opening day. However, his message of no changes to the 2012 season does not seem to have reached as far as the message by Parks officials in April that has some US boating magazines warning boaters not to travel the Canadian canals due to uncertainties in hours and length of season. This was reflected in this May long weekend's attendance, as very low numbers of boaters entered the canal system in Trenton.

  "With visitors being discouraged by cutbacks to the Waterway, a trend will be created where less and less visitors come each year, leading to a further justification of greater cuts down the road."
Visitors are drawn to the Trent-Severn Waterway every year, marvelling at its engineering feat and its architectural landmarks, like the Lift Lock in Peterborough. They also come because of the region's natural beauty and diversity that has been cared for by the women and men who have been working the Waterway since its inception in 1833.

During the almost 90 years it took to complete this canal, many challenges had to be overcome, ranging from conflicting interests, lack of funds or reallocation of funds due to events like the 1837 revolution, or WWI. It was the driving power of the stakeholders along the Waterway, the communities and political will that ensured its completion.

Stretching 386 km from Trenton to Port Severn and employing about 185 people directly, many communities, industries and businesses rely on the roughly $200 million the Waterway generates. Economic spin-offs include everything from boat sales, outfitters, restaurants, B&Bs, houseboats and tour operators relying on the more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world.

Proposed cuts in Waterway service by the Conservative government threaten to endanger the economies of all these communities. Yet, many of the MPs of the areas affected express that they are "quietly" working in the background; however, this quietness can be more aptly expressed as silence.

While the era of the Lake Steamer has passed, the beauty of the Trent-Severn Waterway has not and to save this Canal, its heritage, its natural beauty and the communities tied to this service, we have to continue working together to pressure political representatives to assume an active role in standing with their constituents.

With visitors being discouraged by cutbacks to the Waterway, a trend will be created where less and less visitors come each year, leading to a further justification of greater cuts down the road. These communities and over 100 years of heritage are threatened by a federal budget that is destroying the livelihoods of families in communities across Ontario.

Ralf Bucherer is the Region 3 Representative on the Ontario Council of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. He is a lock operator for the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Posted: June 14, 2012

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