How important is boat traffic to the Rideau Canal and the communities along that corridor? And what effect might higher fees have on canal usage?
Proposed changes include steep hikes to use locks on historic canals, including the Kingston to Ottawa Rideau Canal. Parks Canada has this FAQ on proposed canal fee changes.
The current payment system includes single passes that permit boaters to use as many or as few locks as they chose, in spans ranging from single-day to full season. The new proposal would consist of buying tickets for each lock used. According to a detailed article by Don Butler in the Ottawa Citizen:
The new fee structure would raise the cost of travelling the full length of the canal by 287 per cent. The owner of a 20-foot boat now pays $93 in lockage fees for the Ottawa-to-Kingston trip, but would pay $360 under Parks Canada’s proposal. For owners of 40-foot boats, the cost of a one-way trip would soar from the current $186 to $720.
The percentage increase would be even larger — more than 340 per cent — for boaters who now buy a season’s pass. The owner of a 25-foot boat can buy a season’s pass for $220. But the same boater would pay $975 for 130 tickets under the new system.
The fee increases apply to canoes and kayaks, as well, though they would need one fewer ticket to pass through a lock station than a power boat. Under the current system, those who want to paddle the full length of the canal can buy a transit pass for $74.40. If Parks Canada’s proposed fees are adopted, the cost would rise to $182.40 in 2014.
Monday’s Ottawa Citizen included an editorial that criticized the proposed fees for the negative impact they could have on the “culture and economy of eastern Ontario”.
Private citizen Ken Watson hosts a website dedicated to the Rideau Canal. That site now has a “save our Rideau” page which argues these hikes (and other policy decisions) are short-sighted and will prove detrimental to boating and the region’s economy.
There are several Facebook page on the issue as well, “Save the Rideau and the St. Lawrence” and “Historic Canals Historique: Behind the Scenes/En Coulisses“.
Of course, there are arguments to be made in favor of higher fees for boaters, and for a per-lock ticket system. But so far the general reaction seems largely critical.