MNBP Council Supports Bruce Anchor in Dispute with National Park

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By John Francis

Northern Bruce Peninsula’s June 24, 2019 Council Meeting began with a delegation: former municipal CAO Cathy Robins appeared on behalf of Bruce Anchor Cruises, who are seeking support in their dispute with Parks Canada.
Ms Robins explained that Bruce Anchor bought Big Tub Harbour Resort primarily to get access to its sheltered, deepwater commercial dock. It was (and is) Bruce Anchor’s intention to use the Big Tub water lot as an alternative moorage for their boat tour business at The Gap (at the end of Highway 6). Bruce Anchor needs an alternative on days when water conditions are too rough at The Gap. Parks Canada has forbidden this.
Ms Robins cited a letter written by Brent Robins to National Park Superintendent John Festarini (that letter appeared in Issue #9 of this newspaper). It is Bruce Anchor’s contention that Parks Canada has no right to forbid anything. For starters, Fathom Five National Marine Park is not even gazetted yet. Bruce Anchor contends that the restrictions also contravene clauses in the Federal-Provincial Agreement that established the park in the first place.
The original water lot agreement was established with Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. In those days a previous owner of Big Tub Harbour Resort ran a thriving SCUBA charter business there. The granting agency has changed a couple of times over the decades and Parks Canada now claims to be in charge.
Bruce Anchor disputes that claim. As Brent Robins stated in the published letter: “We have done everything within our power to make you aware of your lack of authority to implement some of your actions and your disregard for the Federal-Provincial establishing agreement. We have met with you several times and we have provided you with legal advice from our solicitors,but you continue to try to assert your non-existent authority.”
As Adam Robins asks, in an accompanying letter: “In what world does an organization’s vision allow them to strip people of their rights, bend or break both provincial and federal agreements and policies and completely disregard a town’s cultural history?”
Councillor Smokey Golden stated that “I think we’re at a tipping point with National Parks and the community,” and that Council must stick up for residents and businesses. Council must demand, she continued, that Parks prove it has the authority to limit commercial activity at Big Tub Harbour Resort. Councillor Megan Myles asked if Bruce Anchor would be more comfortable working with another agency. Very much so, said Cathy Robins; Bruce Anchor would prefer that the water lot revert to MNR control.
Council passed the following motion: “THAT the Municipality contacts John Festarini, Acting Superintendent, and requests that he provide written confirmation from Transport Canada that Parks Canada has been delegated authority to control activities on the surface of the navigable waters in the Big Tub water lot;
AND THAT, if he cannot provide this information to our satisfaction, we request that Parks Canada allows Bruce Anchor Cruises to use the Big Tub water lot on bad weather days for its tour boat operation.”
Can’t Get Staff in Tobermory
Later in the meeting, under Other Business, there was a lively discussion about garbage and recycling facilities in Tobermory. Councillor Smokey Golden began by commenting that she has had complaints that there are too many “Keep the Bruce Clean and Green” tomato cage garbage bags and not enough municipal garbage and recycling facilities. CAO Bill Jones promised to see what could be put in place. A discussion between Council members and Facilities Supervisor Marshall Tigert revealed that there only four full-time staff at Tobermory Harbour this summer, where normally there are seven. “Nobody applied,” he explained.