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Save Our Rideau
Proposed New Fees

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14 May 2013 - Harper Government freezes recreational lockage fees for three years : See the media release at:

Of note this does not include mooring fees which will increase (up to 104%), when approved by Minister Peter Kent.

7-Jun-2013 Update: Darlene Upton, Exective Director of Waterways, Parks Canada, has stated that mooring fees will remain unchanged for 2013 - any approved price increases will come into effect in 2014.

New fees for the Rideau Canal will be implemented in the next few years. While the National Parks side of Parks Canada will be seeing very modest fee increases (1.5%), the canals are being hit with massive increases ranging from 50 to 100%.

Public "consultation" ended on February 18 and the complaint period ended on March 13, 2013. Unless a non-resolved complaint goes to an "Independent Advisory Panel" and the panel agrees with the complainant, or the Minister in charge (Peter Kent) decides to do the right thing in support of our historic canals, then the fees are now fixed. The onerous and unrealistic requirements of the User Fee Act (see below) pretty much guarantees that no complainant will win their argument (or even be allowed to argue their points).

Mooring Fees
(to be implemented in 2014)

New mooring fees, with increases from 39 to 104%, will be implemented in 2014 if they received ministerial approval.

Fee Type Current Fee New Fee % increase
Daytime Mooring $ 0* $ 0.50/ft new
Overnight Mooring $ 0.90/ft $ 1.25/ft + 39%
Seasonal Overnight Mooring $ 9.80/ft $20.00/ft + 104%

* On the Rideau Canal the only place a day mooring fee ($0.40/ft) is currently charged is at Colonel By Island. So in realistic terms this is new fee for the Rideau Canal.

Non-Commercial Lockage Fees
(to be implemented in 2014 - fees frozen until 2016)

New lockage fees, with increases from 33 to 70%, will be implemented in 2014 if they receive ministerial approval. Fees now frozen until 2016. The single lockage and return pass and the transit pass will no longer be available. A proposal to provide a reduced rate for paddlers has been scrapped.

Fee Type Current Fee New Fee % increase
One Way Lockage n/a $0.60/ft to $0.90/ft new
Single Lockage and Return $0.90/ft $1.20/ft (min)* + 33%
One Day Pass $1.60/ft $2.40/ft + 50%
Six Day Pass $5.05/ft $7.20/ft + 43%
Transit Pass $4.65/ft not available --
Season Pass $8.80/ft $15.00/ft + 70%

* The single lockage and return pass will no longer be available. A single lockage and return through a one lock lockstation will cost $0.60/ft each way (so $1.20/ft).

Commercial Lockage Fees
(to be implemented in 2015)

Due to the controversy regarding proposed massive fee increases for commercial boat operators (mostly tour boats taking visitors out onto the Rideau Canal), Parks Canada has postponed planned fee increases until 2015. Parks now says it will properly consult with tour boat operators to come up with an acceptable fee formula. Parks is required to provide 18 months notice to commercial operators of any fee increase.

Why the Fuss over Fees?

The fee issue on the Rideau Canal has several aspects:
  • Heritage Presentation: Boats going through locks is the most important part of the heritage presentation of the Rideau Canal. The Rideau received its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in part because it is an operating canal. For the public to understand and appreciate the heritage of the Rideau Canal requires boats being locked through. Fewer boats = less heritage presentation.

  • Regional Economic Benefits: Boaters provide economic benefits to the Rideau Corridor both directly and indirectly. The direct benefit is in the money they spend on gas, mooring, food, gifts, etc. The indirect is that land based visitors come to see the locks in operation (and many stay in local hotels & B&Bs, eat at local restaurants, shop at local stores). They come to see boats going through locks. Fewer boats = less economic benefits.

  • Fewer Boats: History shows that a rapid jump in fees always results in a significant decrease in boaters using the Rideau Canal. No one is argueing that fees should not be increased, it's the magnitude of the increases that are the issue and the negative impact on boating it is sure to have. High jump in fees = fewer boats.

  • Reputation of Parks Canada: Parks Canada used to have a good reputation as managers of our National Parks and many of our National Historic Sites, including our historic canals. Their incredible mismanagement of the Government of Canada's mandated budget cut has shredded that reputation. They had an opportunity to become more efficient by streamlining their management structure but they didn't do that. Instead they have maintained their bloated HQ bureaucracy while applying disproportionate cuts to their National Historic Sites (see the rest of this website for details). On the fees issue they initially came up with an unworkable ticket system with fee increases ranging from 200 to 400%. It's hard to believe that any competent management would have approved of such a system, yet they did.

  • Public Consulation: Parks Canada has withdrawn from any sort of meaningful public consulation over the last few years. The fee issue is a good example of this. If they had done consultation with the public prior to their fee proposal we wouldn't have seen the inital ticket system (the many flaws in such a proposal would have been pointed out to them), they would have come up with a much better proposal and they would have experienced a far lesser public backlash. The fee process itself actually had no public consultation (consultation is both parties sitting down and discussing the issues), it only allowed for public input, not consultation. The group in charge, Parks Canada's "National Pricing Team", clearly lacked an understanding of the Rideau Canal, its client base, and effective business models for structuring fees.

Last Chance

There are actually two last chances to get the fee increases down to levels that will not drive away boaters.

1) User Fee Complaint Resolution

Parks Canada has until April 12, 2013 to resolve any complaints about their fee proposals. If not resolved by April 12, and if a complainant makes a specific request, then Parks Canada must "establish an Independent Advisory Panel to address that complaint. That complainant must conform to the requirements of the User Fee Act which has such onerous requirements that it is unlikely that any individual could actually follow through on such a complaint.

For those that wish to proceed, review the reply you've received from Parks Canada (or will receive on or prior to April 12) regarding any complaint you've made and determine if it has resolved your complaint. If not, and your complaint is not "frivolous or vexatious" (from User Fee Act), then you can proceed under the very difficult requirements of the User Fee Act. Read the documents provided by Parks Canada for details and if you wish to proceed, contact Parks Canada's "National Pricing Team" at: for full details

17 Apr 2013 - The proposed fee hikes for the Trent Severn Waterway are going to an independent panel:

22 Apr 2013 - Panel to look at fee structure:

14 May 2013 - Review Panel Could Trigger Cut in Rideau Canal Fee Increases :

14 May 2013 - Harper Government freezes recreational lockage fees for three years : See the media release at:

15 May 2013 - The public complaintants have withdrawn their complaint in light of the lockage fee freeze. This will allow for Parks Canada to proceed with government approval of the mooring fee increases.

2) Political Resolution

Any fee increase must be approved by the Government of Canada (specifically the Minister in charge, Peter Kent). They can, at any time, have Parks Canada make changes to the fee structure. So it is never too late to let the government known how the proposed fee increases are going to hurt the heritage of the Rideau Canal, the local economy and/or your specific issues with the fee increases. See the Communications Page for political contact details.

May 14, 2013 update - the Political Resolution option has been played - Minister Peter Kent announced that recreational lockage fees will be frozen for the next three years.

Final Fee Implementation

From Parks Canada's website: "For all fees which fall under the requirements of the User Fees Act and once any final adjustments are made to the user fees, Parks Canada will present the proposed user fees to Parliament for review and recommendation and subsequently to the Minister of the Environment for approval. Once approved, all user fees will be published in the Canada Gazette and will be implemented at the various Parks Canada locations sometime in 2013. Note: Adjustments to lockage fees will not be implemented until 2014. All non User Fees Act fees will be presented to the Minister of the Environment directly for approval."

Other Info and Thoughts

The following table compares what it would cost for a 25 foot power boat under the old system and the new system:

Scenario Old System Cost New System Cost % diff
Transit canal Transit Pass $116.25 6-day pass $180 + 55%
Seasonal Boating Season Pass $220 Season Pass $375 + 70%
Day Boating One Day Lockage $ 40 One Day Pass $ 60 + 50%
Six Days of Boating Six Day Lockage $126.25 6-Day Lockage $180 + 43%

A Few Observations

World Heritage Obligations - part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Rideau Canal was as a canal fully operational along its entire length. The Government of Canada chose to nominate the Rideau as a World Heritage Site, knowing its operating costs and knowing that under the World Heritage Convention it would responsible for fully supporting the Rideau as an operating canal. They have now abdicated that responsibility and Parks Canada's messaging regarding cost recovery makes no mention of the Rideau's status as a World Heritage Site, they simply characterize it as a recreational canal. While there is no argument that there should be reasonable user fees, any of those fees on the Rideau should be looked at as a bonus, not a requirement.

More Boats I: Marketing the Rideau - Parks Canada has noted the decline in boater traffic and used that as an excuse for some of the actions they are taking. But they are in part responsible for this since for the last five years they have not been actively marketing the Rideau Canal to boaters. If you want more boats to go through the locks you have to encourage that activity with marketing - something that Parks Canada is currently only paying lip service to.

More Boats II: Local Residents - any business knows that one secret of success is to know your clients. Not only the clients that currently use your business but those that have the potential to do so. On the Rideau Canal there is a large untapped resource, waterfront residents, most of whom own at least one boat. However most of these residents never use the locks. These boats are a large untapped resource for Parks Canada. To get these people using the locks will require some fee creativity on the part of Parks Canada. Perhaps start with a free lockage weekend (similar to Ontario's free family fishing weekend) to get these people interested in the locking experience. An experience they may be willing to pay for once they've tried it.

More Boats III: Rideau Passport - an effective tourism marketing method for encouraging regional travel is the tourism passport. This concept is easily applied to the Rideau. Create a passport and offer prizes for various completion stages which on the Rideau would involve going through locks. Lock through 3 (pick any number) lockstations each in the southern, central and northern Rideau and get a poster. Get you passport stamped from every lockstation and enter it for a prize (say a couple of Canadian Gold coins - it has to be something of good value). This is a very inexpensive way to encourage more locking.

Pay-As-You-Go I - The Achilles heel of the new pay-as-you-go for lockstations is that unlike the formerly proposed ticket system there appears to be no way to pre-purchase lockages other than the 6-Day Pass or Season Pass. This means more hassle for travelers (having to pay at each lock) and more work for the lock staff. Some sort of pre-payment system should be implemented, whether tickets and/or something like a lockage card (pre-loaded swipe/chip card). The currently least expensive pre-pay pass is the 6-Day Pass which would cost $180.00 for a 25 foot boat.

Pay-As-You-Go II - the Parks Canada figure for the present average cost of locking on the Trent-Severn and Rideau Canal is $0.45 per foot per lock (by which, on the Rideau Canal, they mean per lockstation). This will be going up to an average of $0.72 per lockstation, an increase of 64%.

Transit Boaters - The loss of the transit pass means that many transit boaters will replace it with the 6-Day Pass. This will have the effect of many boats spending less time in the system and therefore spending less money in local communities since only they'll only have 6 lockage days available. With careful planning they might be able to squeeze in a couple of non-locking days to extend their stay, but the transit pass allowed those that wished it a more leisurely voyage though the Rideau (no need to count locking days). This provides more economic benefit to local businesses. The reduced operating hours for 2013 also means that transit boaters using a 6-day pass will spend less time exploring and visiting communities in order to be able to get locked through.

Paddlers I - The reduced fee proposal for paddlers has been eliminated. The new structure is particularly a problem for transit paddlers who take more than 6 days to complete the canal (most do take longer). To recognize that it takes longer for paddlers to transit the Rideau than it does power boats, the transit pass, or a special paddler's transit pass should be implemented.

Parks Canada's Proposed Fee Structure

The following tables are from Parks Canada. You can see the original data at:

The number of tickets required to pass through a lock station will be based on the service provided at that lock station. There are three levels of service for lock stations:



Proposed Fee
(per foot)

One-way passage through a Level 1 lock

Single lock chamber
Low elevation
Shorter transit time
(approx. 15 minutes)


One-way passage through a Level 2 lock

Single or multi-lock chamber
Medium to high elevation
Longer transit time
(15 to 45 minutes or more)


One Day pass

Paper pass providing unlimited lock passages for the duration of 1 day


Six Day pass

Paper pass providing unlimited lock passages for the duration of 6 individual days
(not necessary to be consecutive days).


Seasonal Pass

Self-adhesive pass adhered to vessel providing unlimited lock passages on all Parks Canada canals and waterways for the entire season.


Rideau Canal


Service Level Fee
Ottawa 2 $0.90
Hartwells  2 $0.90
Hog's Back 1 $0.60
Black Rapids 1 $0.60
Long Island 2 $0.90
Burritts Rapids 1 $0.60
Lower and Upper Nicholsons 2 $0.90
Clowes 1 $0.60
Merrickville 2 $0.90
Kilmarnock 1 $0.60
Edmonds 1 $0.60
Old Slys 2 $0.90
Smith Falls Combined 2 $0.90
Smith Falls Detached 1 $0.60
Poonamalie 1 $0.60
Lower and Upper Beveridges 2 $0.90
Narrows 1 $0.60
Newboro 1 $0.60
Chaffeys 1 $0.60
Davis 1 $0.60
Jones Falls 2 $0.90
Upper and Lower Brewers 2 $0.90
Kingston Mills 2 $0.90

2013 Mooring Fees*

Day Mooring
(fee per foot)

Overnight Mooring
(fee per foot)

Season Mooring Pass
(fee per foot)

Pleasure Boaters




Commercial Boaters

no info

no info

no info

4-Feb-2013 UPDATE. Parks Canada has re-instated the 1 day pass and has a revised mooring fee proposal (see above).

Thanks to the many people that provided comments to Parks Canada regarding their originally proposed ticket fee structure!

18-Jan-2013 UPDATE. Parks Canada has replaced their originally proposed ticket structure with a direct cost per lock system and added back two passes; the 6-Day Pass and the Season Pass.

Thanks to the many people that provided comments to Parks Canada regarding their originally proposed ticket fee structure!

For more information on Parks Canada's fee proposals, see the links from:

To provide comments to Parks Canada on the proposed 2013 fees, please do so:

or By Mail
Parks Canada Agency
2013 Fees Consultation
Brand Experience Branch
25 Eddy Street, 6th floor (25-6-T)
Gatineau, QC K1A 0M5

Be sure to cc your local MP, Minister Peter Kent and the Prime Minister
Their contact info can be found on the communications page.

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