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Saving the Season is not all Good News
It was announced in mid-October 2012 that the operating season for the Rideau Canal, previously planned to be cut back, would be maintained with modified hours. What was not announced (and missed by much of the media) is that there is no change in the proposed 2 million dollar cut to the already underfunded Rideau Canal. While the modified hours of operation will account for some of the 2 million dollar cut, what remains will have to come from somewhere else. As shown in great detail on this website, that remaining cut is going to have a dramatic impact on the heritage protection and presentation of the Rideau Canal and also on nuts and bolts issues such as maintenance of the canal structures.
Maintaining the season with modified hours was one of the solutions I proposed back in early July (see Solutions Page). It is something that Parks Canada should have first considered rather than announcing that the season would be cut (the sledgehammer approach). If the budget cut to the Rideau Canal had been proportionate to the overall cut to Parks Canada (which would result in a $500,000 cut versus the $2,000,000 cut now taking place) it would likely have been all they would have had to do. Unfortunately it's more about politics than doing the right thing, I've explained some of the reasons for that in my Dwindling Support for Heritage Canals editorial.
It took a great deal of public pressure and media coverage to save the season. In the end, the government did it for the optics of supporting the local economy in order to get local MPs re-elected. If the Government of Canada really wanted to maintain the local economy, they wouldn't have imposed the brutal cuts to the Rideau Canal in the first place. The government is now attempting to look good in solving a problem that they created.
The reality check is the Rideau is still taking a 2 million dollar cut. It is still being merged with the Trent-Severn Canal. It is continuing to be poorly managed by Parks Canada who have disregarded their own mandate regarding the protection and presentation of the heritage of the Rideau Canal. The Rideau Canal's World Heritage obligations are not being met and the massive budget cut is making this much worse, putting the Rideau's World Heritage Status at risk. Parks Canada is continuing to get rid of much of their heritage expertise (see the Dumbing Down of Parks Canada), removing their ability to do any sort of good job regarding heritage protection and presentation.
Bottom line is that the Government of Canada is continuing to cut support for Canadian heritage. It is not living up to its World Heritage obligations and it is supporting bad management of the Rideau Canal by Parks Canada.
We still have a long way to go to restore what the Rideau Canal deserves - proper funding to protect and present this remarkable part of our Canadian heritage.
- Ken Watson