MPs back new user fees 0
A group of MPs looking into the future of the Trent-Severn Waterway will likely recommend a user fee that would apply to cottagers, permanent residents, day users and visitors.
The idea was discussed at a meeting of stakeholders, mostly business owners from the four federal ridings that comprise about 90% of the Trent-Severn Waterway, at Trent University's Wenjack Theatre last Friday, June 15.
The meeting was not open to the media.
Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton, the meeting chairman, later confirmed that the user-fee concept was discussed and that the MPs will likely recommend the measure to the federal minister of environment later this summer.
"There are a massive number of people who visit and live on the Trent-Severn Waterway from which there is currently no financial contribution," he said.
"We have recreational boaters who pay for lockage passes and fees, but a great number of users of our lakes and rivers and some of the built canal system may never go through a lock, and yet they still derive a tangible benefit from it with no additional fees," Stanton added. "We have 386 kilometres of waterway and you've got lakes and rivers on which there could be literally thousands of users."
Quinte West Mayor John Williams was also at the meeting. Williams is spearheading a group of municipal leaders opposed to the cuts.
"I think it (user fees) is something we should look at ... instead of cutting services along the waterway," he said on Monday.
Williams and a group of other municipal leaders are meeting in Haliburton on Thursday.
"While nothing has been decided, hopeful we can come up with some other ideas," Williams said.
Like other branches of the federal government, the Trent-Severn Waterway is faced "with some deficit reduction issues," Stanton said. "The initial proposal was that we were going to find some of those savings by reducing service in terms of the number of days and hours of operation on not only the Trent-Severn but on the Rideau system as well.
"We were able to forestall that for 2012, but it really is just a short time commitment to give us the chance as MPs to speak to people who have a vital interest in the economic benefit of this waterway and toss some ideas around as to how we as MPs can go back and make recommendations to the minister to say, 'Here is a way that we cannot interrupt service for 2013, '14 and '15 and down the line'."
Stanton said the group doesn't want to see cuts to service on the waterway.
"We believe it's too important. But we also accept that the government has its fiscal responsibility as well to the taxpayers of Canada, so we have got to find a way to come up with some creative ideas on how we can have the government realize its fiscal objective and at the same time not reduce service on the Trent-Severn."
In addition to Stanton, Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin and Northumberland-Quinte West MP Rick Norlock were at the meeting. Del Mastro left shortly before the meeting ended and could not be reached for comment.