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Norlock mum on TSW

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

VALERIE MACDONALD Northumberland Today
Two lock operators at the Hastings lock of the Trent Severn Waterway are concerned about their jobs because of cost-cutting by Parks Canada.

VALERIE MACDONALD Northumberland Today Two lock operators at the Hastings lock of the Trent Severn Waterway are concerned about their jobs because of cost-cutting by Parks Canada.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - 

Northumberland - Quinte West MP Rick Norlock responded last week to Hamilton Township's request for an update on federal government plans to scale back operations on the Trent-Severn Waterway after the township and its tourism businesses were inadvertently left out of a summer-time stakeholders meeting.

While being mum about the specifics of an alternate set of recommendations compiled by he, and three fellow waterway MPs, Norlock told councillors that the recommendations created through submissions from stakeholders in the entire four-riding region have now been given to Environment Minister Peter Kent.

"Parliament reconvenes this Monday," Norlock said, adding that he hopes for a meeting with the Minister as soon as possible, and then for their suggested alternatives to go to Cabinet.

In past interviews, Norlock has aid recommendations do not include property tax increases on waterfront owners but Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro is not being as close-mouthed as Norlock about the MPs’ proposals.

The MPs recommend fees are on boaters only to keep service on the locks-and-canal system, Del Mastro said in a published report.

Despite this admission from the plan by Del Mastro, Norlock said the decision made by the four MPs who authored it, was to not divulge its contents but that the "only mouth I can control is my own".

Parks Canada recently said it was merging the administration of the Welland Canal and Trent-Severn systems but both Del Mastro and Norlock said the decision on how the Trent Severn Waterway operates, and when, will be made by elected representatives and not appointed ones.

In the end, however, Norlock told Northumberland Today after the council session, that the decisions by public servants and politicians may be the same.

When pressed by Deputy Mayor Isobel Hie for some specifics to shortening the locking season, Norlock again declined to make them public at this time, but assured council they were "reasonable" alternatives to the deficit reduction plans previously adopted by the federal government which included closing the locks between Monday and Thursday during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Once again, Norlock stressed, the final decisions rest with Cabinet.

He also defended his government's record on the waterway.

"In the last 45 years, no,government has invested in the Trent-Severn Waterway" as much as his and in this riding there will be two new bridges, not just repairs, Norlock said.

The Trent-Severn Waterway affects the whole north end of the riding, including this township, and the tourism industry, he stressed.

When Hie asked about reduced boat traffic in the system, Norlock replied that this year's final figures are not compiled yet (the system doesn't close until Thanksgiving) but that it appears they are up 30% this year over last year. At the same time, since the 1980s, there has been an overall decline and that at some locks no boats go through from Monday to Thursday, Norlock said.

"The Trent-Severn Waterway doesn't pay for itself," he stressed.

The new plan put together by Norlock, Del Mastro, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin and Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton to counteract the $3 million in federal cuts could include a new governance model, Norlock said, but "won't be closed down."

He described the Trent-Severn Waterway as one of the most beautiful systems in the world but that when it was created it was not a system "where municipalities drew their water from."

Meantime, Parks Canada has said it will try to achieve the required savings by scaling back hours of operation, shortening the navigation season and cutting jobs, with a plan it promises this fall.

valerie.macdonald@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/NT_vmacdonald

 


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