Recreational Lockage Fees Controversy Continues

Trent Severn User Fees

Recently there has been an increase in conversation regarding the announcement by Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, this past spring that “recreational lockage fees along Canada’s historic canals will remain frozen for the next three years at 2008 levels”.  As boaters have begun using the lock systems and all of the associated services, reader feedback indicates that in spite of the government’s ‘good news’ announcement, there are increases in moorage charges, reductions in hours of service and reductions in staffing. 

Since Canadian Yachting printed the original announcement (https://canadianboating.ca/news-and-events/current/1234-government-freezes-recreational-lockage-fees-for-three-years) and presented it to our readers we feel it necessary to present views and feedback of our readers as they begin their summer experience using the waterways.  The letters that follow do not represent the views of Canadian Yachting magazine; they are our reader’s views of the ongoing discussions. The last letter is a response to one reader’s emails to the government on this issue. Please feel free to send us your thoughts on lockage/moorage fees as well.

A Canadian Yachting reader, Paul Toogood, sent a letter to our Editor, Andy Adams, outlining his thoughts on the matter as a follow up to the abovementioned article:

“Hi Andy,
I notice Minister Kent’s announcement published in your latest Canadian Yachting Magazine.
It is a bit incongruous to see it after the last month of very bitter emails that have been going backwards and forwards between boaters ever since. The day the announcement was made there was a lot of relief.The day afterwards we all discovered that it might have been a ploy to get us to drop our guard (and many proactive proponents of boating did in fact drop plans for meetings and other actions with and against Parks and the minister, only to find that actually there doesn’t seem to be much of a freeze, and the shortened season, reduced staff, and shortened hours, and daytime mooring fees are not frozen even for this season, and next season all kinds of changes are planned).

I am not much of a proponent myself, however you might want to be aware of what many of your readers are experiencing (long waits at locks, very un-happy lock staff, and overall quite a bad feeling that something is wrong and dysfunctional with boating at this time). Hopefully this will soon pass and the proponents of gloom and doom are wrong.

Below is one of the initial responses to the announcement and I am not too embarrassed to forward it as one of the most polite emails on this subject. Since the sending of this email, there are now hundreds of boaters on mailing lists talking to their MPs in not very polite terms at all; the best and worst of Canadian politics all happening at once.   I send you this email, because in light of what is now actually going on, your publication of the Minister’s announcement doesn’t look like very balanced reporting and I have to therefore assume that you are blissfully unaware of the bad feelings surrounding the announcement and what subterfuge may or may not have been intended by it and that you may either want to distance the magazine from it until the dust settles, or perhaps produce a more balanced and in-depth story on what is going on. I would hope the latter, and that you can weed out the truth from all the innuendo, publish informative, balanced articles that will be of riveting interest to all boaters who boat on the Rideau and Trent Severn, and to all residents and business who have some kind of connection to the water.

No response to my email is required; I just felt it important that you consider what might be something important and at worst compelling information.

My best wishes to you and your staff for a great summer.

Sincerely, Paul Toogood

An example of the most polite email I can find on the subject follows: “

Email from Brian Cowper to Darlene Upton at Parks Canada:
“With all due respect to the Minister, I don’t think he knows or cares about a lockages fee or a moorage fee, they are simply just ‘fees’ and his intention, if actually he ever was consulted, was to simply put an end to the noise created by ‘fee’ increases at all costs. Mr. Kent relies in employees like YOU, Darlene, to escalate the facts to your superiors who in turn report to the Minister.

Since Peter Kent cannot be at the helm of all aspects of Parks Canada and since I am confident he has the best interests of all stakeholders and given that he has the common sense to recognize that an objection to fees which deconstruct the viability of the Rideau and Trent  and that he believes  a fee is a fee is a fee, I can see only that at this point that the upper echelons at Parks Canada has deliberately mislead the Minister by the omission or parsing of words in their report to the Minister that he would go on record for a moratorium on lockages fees for three years not knowing that Parks Canada had subterfuge on their minds which would lead to Minister Kent’s embarrassing remarks for not knowing a locking fee from a mooring fee, having thought the issue dead until the next parliament at which time Senators Kent, Wallin and Duffy can all commiserate on how to make the Rideau a special place by manufacturing a way to  claim their boat as an alternate residence.

For this reason Mr. Kent should call for the immediate dismissal of all those who colluded and are responsible for embarrassing him in the public purview. This should be done immediately, a full retraction be published indicating that mooring fees were always intended to part of the three year fee freeze so it  can then become part of the Trudeau administrations problem.
Kindest regards,
Brian Cowper”

Email from reader Bob:
“Great recitation of the party line, Diane. You stated that “It was clear in the Minister’s announcement that the fee freeze decision targeted lockage services.” Oh yeah?. Go to http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/ar-sr/lpac-ppri/peas-slmp.aspx. It appears to me that when Parks Canada wants my money, lockage fees and mooring fees are part and parcel of the same product. And while I’m at it, lockage fees are frozen? I don’t think so. It used to be that a six day pass would allow me to get from Trenton to Peterborough and back on the Trent-Severn. With the ridiculous flying crews, I can only make it halfway. So you have effectively doubled my rates. No wonder Parks Canada has lost credibility with the boating public.
Bob”

Response from Parks Canada Representation via email:
Subject: Re: Mooring fee increases are alive and well.

I would like to take a moment to provide some information to the issue being discussed related to moorage fees for Parks Canada waterways.  First I want to assure you that Parks Canada and the team we have on canals are committed to the success of the canals.  We have financial realities, like
any organization or business.  We also, through the exchanges, have become aware of opportunities for new service offers and revenue generation opportunities.  We are committed explore these opportunities and move in new directions that can benefit canals and their communities of interest.

In regards to the fee process and specifically mooring I would offer the following clarification.  Following the complaint resolution phase of public consultations on the new fee proposals, the Agency received four formal canal complaints which were referred to an Independent Advisory Panel as per the User Fees Act.  Two complaints were related to lockage only and the other two to lockage and moorage.  As per the User Fee Act the Agency established an Independent Advisory Panel and prepared to hear the complaints.

On May 14, 2013 Minister Kent announced after extensive comments and ideas on the proposed canal lockage fee, and in consultation and with canal Government MPs, that Parks Canada will freeze recreational lockage fees along Canada’s historic canals for three years at 2008 levels. He further announced that during this time, Parks Canada will work with local Members of Parliament, community leaders and the tourism industry to develop and implement an improved operating model to ensure the long term financial sustainability of the canals operations.  He stated that these long term solutions will need to address all aspects of the canals operations.

Following the announcement of this decision all formal complainants withdrew their complaints.  It was the decision of the complainants that their issues had been resolved.  Following the User Fee Act there was no longer a need to move forward with the Independent Advisory Panel.

It was clear in the Minister’s announcement that the fee freeze decision targeted lockage services (
http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/cp-nr/release_e.asp?id=1987&andor1=nr).  National fees for mooring, an activity that occurs in several Parks Canada  locations (not only in canals), remain in the fee proposal package that will be considered by Parliament.  Following this review and considering any recommendations of Parliament, the fees are then approved by the Minister responsible for Parks Canada under the Parks Canada Agency Act.  The fees will then be published in the Canadian Gazette and implemented by Parks Canada.  Due to the timing of this process Parks Canada has committed to maintaining the canal moorage fees on the canals at the 2008 level for the 2013 operating season.

I would like to conclude with Parks Canada commitment to work in partnership with others to ensure Canada’s historic canal waterways meet their potential as world class sites, vibrant and animated. As part of the long-term financial sustainability planning for the canal operations,
Parks Canada is already considering new visitor opportunities that will benefit a broad range of canals users, and create new sources of revenue, all while maintaining support for our tourism operators and industry.

I look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming months as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Darlene Upton
Darlene.Upton@pc.gc.ca

Murray Swing Bridge - Trent Severn

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