By Terry Hughes
The dissolution of the WRCC and replacing it with the new governance model (Waterway Advisory Committee) that directly is controlled by the city is troubling. Since the announcement that the bypass in 1966 would leave the waterway in the city’s future, public participation has historically been involved. Recently, the process used to change the governance of the WRCC and later, its dissolution did not follow in these footsteps. Here are some of those actions that involved the public since 1980.
1. During the early 1980’s the Welland Canal Parkway Development Board developed plans using the McLaren Report to bring tourist dollars to the community. Public meetings were held seeking our input before this plan was cancelled by the federal election in 1984.
2.The decision by the Conservative government to sell off the canal lands to private developers was opposed by local citizens. Opposition to this activity was reflected in a petition of some 350 names and recorded in Hansard at the House of Commons by our federal member of Parliament, Gib Parent in 1989.
3. As a result of a fatality on the recreational waterway and the hazardous operation of motorized watercraft, Councillor Joe Spadafora launched a public inquiry into the need for developing some standards to control waterway activity. A list of recommendations were developed for public and federal government officials in 1990.
4. Issues leading up to the municipal election in 2004 involved the lack of tourism developments on the waterway. A major meeting chaired by Arlene Whyte from the Ministry of Tourism was held at the Best Western where a brainstorming session developing a variety of suggestions on what needed to be done occurred.
5. As a result of the creation of the incorporated WRCC in 2002 and efforts by Mayor Damian Goulbourne to set the board free of city control, the citizens selected to serve on the board were responsible for setting up the waterway for an international flatwater course.
6. During the operation of the WRCC, the board members saw a need to revisit its direction. A Master Plan of 2014 involving input of hundreds of local citizens resulted in a document that outlined these changes.
7. A challenge to the Go Quiet Policy last year resulted in four public meetings plus numerous e-mails and letters that supported this policy be maintained.
When members of the WRCC resigned in protest over disagreements with city council on how it was conducting business in 2017, the city looked at three formats to reform the WRCC. Two public meetings were held in June when people’s minds were on summer vacations. Some forty-five people attended the first meeting while the June 30th meeting had significantly fewer.
What proved to be interesting is that most of these people did not understand what changes the city wanted to make. Unable to reach a governance model that satisfied the city, a decision to totally abandon the WRCC and adopt a multilevel model under the control of city council was developed.
The dangers of this new direction needs to be discussed in a public consultation. For example, what impact will this have on the accessibility to the canal fund? Hopefully, this discourse could happen with involvement of both the new council and the public.
Next Column: Some interesting facts about the Forks Road Bridge
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)