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Save Our Rideau

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In 2012, Parks Canada restructured the management of the Rideau Canal and the Trent-Severn Canal into one unit called the Ontario Waterway Unit. It replaced the two Superintendent positions with a single Director, a job far too large for one person (as the last years have clearly shown, many issues are falling trough the cracks due to inattention). The change was done with absolutely no public consultation (and apparently very little planning) and has had a major negative impact on both canals.

Any restructuring by Parks Canada has to be done to serve their primary mandate which is to protect and present the natural and cultural heritage of the site. This is clearly not being done with this change, it is being done simply to reduce staffing levels under the dubious rational of improved efficiencies. Very little planning went into this change as evidenced by the "make it up as you go" system of management and staffing that has been evident since the change was made.

On the surface, the Rideau and Trent-Severn are similar, they are both operating canals and although the Trent is almost twice as long as the Rideau, they have a similar number of locks. But that's where the similarities end. The Rideau is an older canal, it was built for a much different reason than the Trent-Severn, and it is a World Heritage Site. The Trent-Severn is more modern than the Rideau (started in 1833 and completed in 1920) and has more boating traffic. Parks Canada's management of these canals has to take into account those and many other differences.

The primary mandate of Parks Canada on the Rideau Canal is supposed to be the protection and presentation of its heritage, the reasons it received the designation as a World Heritage Site. They've been abdicating this responsibility for the last few years (see my comments under Heritage Management and World Heritage Status at Risk) and there is no place for heritage under the new management structure (they won't even talk to the Rideau heritage community).

    On a sad historical note, this change by Parks Canada is also breaking a continuous run of 180 years of having a Superintendent of the Rideau Canal (the first Superintendent was Lt. Colonel John By). While that role, originally as the Superintending Engineer of the Rideau Canal, has changed over time, the Rideau has always had a direct manager in that position.
    The Rideau Canal is a highly complex system to operate and the management level of Superintendent is needed in the field unit on the canal. There is no question that a new Super Superintendent (to be called "Director, Ontario Waterways Unit"), responsible for both the Rideau and Trent-Severn, is not going to be able to do a good job. This change shows how out of touch the Parks Canada HQ management is with the realities of properly operating, protecting and presenting the Rideau Canal.

Background Info - the communiqué from the head of Parks Canada just after the restructuring in 2012 clearly shows the new direction and a total abandonment of Parks Canada's manadate. Try to find any references to heritage or culture (hint, they aren't there). The new focus is to be only on "canal operations such as navigation services, water management and daily maintenance of assets."

Communiqué from Alan Latourelle, September 28, 2012:

Subject: Creation of a cohesive Historic Canals Program

The Historic Canals that we are entrusted to protect and present on behalf of all Canadians have a critical role to play in contributing to the Agency's objectives. However, they have challenges and opportunities that are unique as a result of their location, the nature of their assets, operation and clientele. To ensure that they meet their full potential based on their collective strengths, I am pleased to inform you that we are establishing a dedicated canals organizational structure within Parks Canada, one that will give Historic Canals a more prominent voice and coherent vision within the Parks Canada family.

The new dedicated waterway structure will include the office of the Executive Director and two units – one for Ontario Waterways and one for Quebec Waterways. The Executive Director will be responsible for establishing strong direction for the Historic Canals in order to heighten their profile externally, share highly professional asset management capacity and develop innovative approaches to address the unique challenges of our Historic Canals.

The Ontario and Quebec Waterways Units will be focused specifically on canal operations such as navigation services, water management and daily maintenance of assets.

Within the executive ranks of the Agency’s new organizational structure, I wish to announce that following a recent competitive process, Darlene Upton has accepted an appointment as the first Executive Director, Waterways; Luc-André Mercier has accepted an appointment as the first Director of the Quebec Waterways Unit following an expression of interest and Don Marrin has accepted an interim appointment as the first Director of the Ontario Waterways Unit, after which time he will assume his new duties as Executive Director, Northern Canada. Together, Darlene, Luc-André and Don bring a strong understanding of our mandate and values and great people leadership skills combined with a good understanding of day-to-day operations at all levels of the organization. Their biographical notes are attached. The competitive process to permanently staff the position of Director, Ontario Waterways Unit will be initiated shortly.

As a result of these changes, we have merged national historic sites and national parks from the former Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec Field Units to create two new Field Units: Georgian Bay and Eastern Ontario Field Unit under the leadership of Kim St. Claire; and the La Mauricie and Western Quebec Field Unit, under the leadership of Carole Loiselle. As we strive to protect these exceptional treasures and increase the level of activity on our waterways, I am confident that the strong leadership of Darlene, Luc-André, Don, Kim and Carole will allow Parks Canada to continue to operate effectively as we transition to our new, dedicated canals organizational structure. I remain convinced that, with your support and excellent work, we will continue to deliver the programs that Canadians value so highly.

- Alan Latourelle


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© 2012- Ken W. Watson