A group of business owners, local tourism industry representatives and municipal politicians met with the head of Parks Canada and Environment Minister Peter Kent in Ottawa on Thursday to encourage them to rollback cuts to the Trent-Severn Waterway.
They returned without much hope for changes to service levels season, said Trent Lakes Mayor Janet Clarkson, who led the trip from Buckhorn to Parliament Hill.
“We did a lot of talking. Maybe somebody listened,” she said Thursday.
Trent Lakes Township chartered the bus that took 21 people to Ottawa.
The group met with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin for about 45 minutes. During that time, Kent dropped by for about 10 minutes.
“The one commitment we got from (Kent) is that he said he’ll come down and take a tour of this end of the Trent,” Clarkson said.
When the group sat down with Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle later in the day, it learned there’s more service cuts than just during the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall, Clarkson said.
“They’re cutting back in July and August as well,” she said.
Instead of having crews at all locks, Trent-Severn Waterway is using roving teams that move between locks to let boat traffic travel through the system. It’s a cost-cutting measure. Devolin has said those cutbacks are just for the shoulder season when there’s less traffic, that the service would be ramped up for the busy summer period.
Clarkson said Latourelle indicated that’s not the case — the roving teams will be used for some of the locks during the summer.
“We’re going to have people bunching up and bunching up,” she said. “The boats are just going around in circles, there’s no place for them to tie up.”
Clarkson said the group presented suggestions such as implementing a boat licence sticker program that would charge $25 per sticker per year, which would be similar to vehicle licence stickers, as a way to raise more money.
And the group urged the government to start a national advertising campaign for the Trent-Severn Waterway similar to marketing that it has done for other national parks, Clarkson said.
“Is there any will in the federal government to make this thing survive at all?” she said. “They’ve slashed and burned the budget for tourism.”