Future of waterway up for debate 0
The Peterborough Liftlock and Riverboat Cruises' Island Princess lll makes waves at the Peterborough Lift Lock. Several retired senior Trent Severn Waterway have warned about serious impacts of proposed cuts to the Trent and Rideau systems. CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY
A Trenton business owner has a simple message for the federal government.
It's simple - Maintain the status quo when it comes to operating the federally-run Trent Severn Waterway.
"Absolutely. There are a lot of business owners up and down the Trent whose livelihoods could be in jeopardy," said marina operator Sandra Carter.
It's the message Carter, other business owners and municipal politicians will take with them June 15 to a round table discussion at Trent University on the future of the waterway.
The three-hour meeting has been organized by four MPs - Rick Norlock, Dean Del Mastro, Bruce Stanton and Barry Devolin.
Carter and husband Craig operate the Fraser Park Marina at the mouth of the Trent River.
The government announced in April there could be a "service realignment" that could include the layoff of canal workers. The move is part of the government's federal deficit reduction plan.
It sent a tidal wave of uncertainty up and down the Trent-Severn system.
Norlock told QMI Agency Thursday there could be changes to the peak boating season, starting in 2013.
"But that's not guaranteed," said Norlock. "We want to bring stakeholders together and talk to them about the future of the waterway and listen to their ideas. We're looking for ideas to bring to the attention of the minister."
Business owners and municipal officials say job cuts could result in a shortened boating season and reduced hours of operation on the waterway.
They said boaters could navigate away from the region and head to other ports of call.
"Those workers do a lot more than just open and close a few doors," said Carter. "What about controlling water levels and a whole lot more? This waterway is vital."
Just into the 2012 boating season, Carter hasn't seen any backlash from boaters.
"Traffic is starting to pick-up," she said. "Things are looking up. But if there are changes we could have a tough time keeping our economic heads above water."
Carter wants it to stay that way. So does Quinte West Mayor John Williams.
The city lies at the mouth of Trent River and is the first port of call for hundreds of boaters from Canada and the U.S. before navigating the waterway.
The waterway is playing a big part in the city's economic development plans. A $14 million, 388-slip marina is scheduled to open in 2014.
Williams has been spearheading an effort intended to galvanize community support along the waterway.
"We're going to be asking for time to get some economic report together showing how important the Trent-Severn is to our communities," said Williams.
Upwards of 26 communities line the 387-km route from Quinte West to Georgian Bay.
Williams said the government was premature when it issued workers letters warning of possible layoffs.
"I don't know why they went a head with it when we (stakeholders) didn't have a say. Now where in a position where we have been forced to look for solutions," said Williams. "The government has to understand how important the system is to our communities."
The union representing workers believes 100 per cent of its members could have their work hours drastically cut.
The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) represents between 165 to 185 workers along the Trent Severn. Workers include lock operators, lock masters, maintenance crews, support staff, clerical workers and other positions.
Parks Canada officials have said it's too early to know the exact impact of potential layoffs. The federal agency is looking at aligning the hours of operation to times when there are the highest demands for boating use.
The full implementation of the service realignment won't be unveiled for months, but will be implemented for the 2013 season.