Letter to the Editor: Parks Canada Must Work With Community

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Dear Editor:
With the warmer weather now upon us and the tourism season set to kick into high gear, I feel compelled to write to you today regarding actions taken by Parks Canada which are negatively impacting the Tobermory area.
As many residents are well aware, in 1987 when the community and the federal and provincial governments entered into an agreement to establish the National Parks, it was a polarizing conversation. Many residents feared that Parks Canada would become far too restrictive on what landowners could and could not do both inside and adjacent to the parks. These fears have now become a reality.
Overly bureaucratic and arbitrary rules from Parks Canada are significantly limiting the ability of some local businesses to operate in a successful manner. By now your readership may have read the letter that Mr. Brent Robins has written to John Festarini, Acting Superintendent of Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park, regarding these issues.
Essentially, Parks Canada is attempting to tell Mr. Robins what he can and cannot do when it comes to the water lot in front of Big Tub Resort and Marina, a private business owned by Mr. Robins. These unlawful and potentially unconstitutional, directives will have two major impacts. Firstly, Parks Canada is potentially eliminating the ability of Mr. Robins to use the water lot as a harbour of safe refuge for his vessels when weather conditions make it impossible for him to safely dock and load and unload passengers at his normal dock location. Second, because of Parks Canada’s unwillingness to come to an arrangement that works for everyone, they are potentially eliminating the ability of over forty residents and ratepayers to dock their boats in the water lot over the course of the summer.
Mr. Robins informed me that on the Monday of the Victoria Day weekend this year he was forced to cancel all scheduled sailings because he did not have bad weather docking available. This cost his employees work hours and disappointed hundreds of tourists who drove many hours to be able to see the beauty of the Peninsula. It is a shame and the blame falls at the feet of Parks Canada and their inability to respect the local community and figure out a solution that works for everyone.
Enough is enough with the bureaucratic nonsense. It is time for Parks Canada to sit down with Mr. Robins and come up with a compromise. They likely do not have the legal authority to do what they are doing. It is contrary to the Navigation Protection Act and potentially violates constitutional rights when it comes to public access on navigable waterways. Dockage is determined by the ownership of the land on which the dock is located – which is owned by Mr. Robins – not the land underneath the water body. Also, Mr. Robins owns all the docks and infrastructure situated in the water lot. The water lot should be available for Bruce Anchor Cruises, or anyone else for that matter, to use as a harbour of safe refuge and should be available for residents to dock their boats for the summer.
I am very frustrated with the present and past actions of Parks Canada. They should be working with the community and living up to the commitments they made in 1987. However, it appears that they are currently ignoring several of the conditions contained in the establishing agreement and putting up roadblocks that threaten the viability of several local businesses. As well, I have heard numerous concerns from the residents of Northern Bruce Peninsula regarding Parks Canada’s lack of adherence to the condition in the agreement relating to local hiring.
In a phone call with Mr. Festarini on June 17th, he stated that some things have changed since the agreement was established in 1987. While that may be true, a deal is a deal. Parks Canada is obligated to honour the original agreement unless, of course, both parties sit down and decide to change what was originally agreed upon.
Furthermore, Parks Canada has let it be known that they have entered into talks with other partners on a “co-management” agreement to manage the operations of the two parks. This must not happen without the local municipality being involved in any and all discussions.
The current practices of Parks Canada must come to an end. They need to work with, and not against, all local businesses who serve the thousands of people who come to visit our two gems – Fathom Five and Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Sincerely,
Larry Miller, MP
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound