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Public Meeting with Bob Rae, MP - August 22, 2012
Bob Rae, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, held a roundtable meeting regarding the cuts to the Rideau Canal, on August 22, 2012 at the Portland Community Hall.
The meeting was very well attended, filling the hall. About 20 people made short presentations to Mr. Rae which covered the entire range of the issues. These ranged from the negative impact to the regional tourism industry and local businesses from the proposed changes to the operating season, to the negative impact on the natural and cultural heritage of the Rideau Canal by the cuts and the organizational changes being made by Parks Canada. There were also some dire warning from a couple of retired Parks Canada employees about the danger to the canal due to lack of maintenance which is going to get much worse with the cuts.
|Bob Rae and Marjory Loveys
For my own presentation, I simply concentrated on the Government of Canada's responsibility to the Rideau Canal as a World Heritage Site. That responsibility, under the World Heritage Convention is to provide "protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage" of the Rideau Canal "to the utmost of its own resources." The Government of Canada is clearly not supporting the Rideau Canal "to the utmost of its own resources" and is now in contravention of the World Heritage Convention which Canada signed. I also noted that the World Heritage designation of the Rideau was in part because it is an "operating canal" - that boats are a significant part of the heritage interpretation of the canal. So the reduction in the operating season and future closures of the canal due to maintenance issues, are going to have negative impacts on the heritage of the canal in addition to their negative economic impact on this region.
At the close, Mr. Rae summed it up with the overriding message of the need to work together - to get the message through to Parks Canada and the Government of Canada that what they are doing to the Rideau Canal is both counterproductive to the goals of debt reduction and harmful to the people, economy and heritage of this region. A few of Mr. Rae's closing statements included:
"But the public statements that have been made by the minister [Minister Peter Kent] do not give me very much confidence that we've got the message through to the government that the kinds of changes that they are proposing, the kinds of cuts that they're proposing are short sighted - are counterproductive - are harmful to business - harmful to the environment - harmful to heritage - harmful to jobs - and harmful to the potential prosperity of the entire region."
"This is just not right and so I hope that the discussion that we've had today will give people a bit of optimism that there is common sense on our side, that we're not simply talking about preserving the status quo. "
"Everyone recognizes that money's not falling off trees at the moment - The province is saving money, the municipalities are saving money, the federal government is trying to save money, we all understand that. But that is no excuse for making mindless cuts that will simply be counterproductive to the economy of the entire region."
Mr. Rae emphasised the need work together "to get some sense into the people in Ottawa that this is simply not the way to go."
He summed it up by saying "the way that the cuts are being proposed and rumoured is completely counterproductive. It will not generate the kind of eventual savings that people think it will - it will not have a positive effect on the economy - it will not produce a beneficial result - and it isn't necessary to do it this way in order to achieve the types of fiscal and financial objectives the government wants to achieve."