Thank you, Chair, Parliamentary Secretary Kamp, all the members of Parliament here, and the clerk and all the staff who work hard to bring about something like this--translation, etc.
Welcome to Prince Edward--Hastings. This is an opportunity to further the study on the divestiture of the small craft harbours. We're here in Belleville and the county because we have a number of sites, all in various stages of completion and/or divestiture. I believe an examination of these sites and the various problems and opportunities that have been presented by them will prove valuable in the assessment of this committee in future deliberations as to how we should continue the divestiture program, discuss issues of funding, etc.
Welcome to Prince Edward County to people here for the first time--with the exception of Scott Simms. Welcome back, Scott, after attending Loyalist. If you're from this region, it is affectionately known as the county here. If you call it anything other than that, they know you're not from here. What you really have here are miles and miles of beautiful beach, a provincial park, agriculture, quaint shopping, some world-class wineries, a strong farming base, and a really active arts and culture community.
We have our representatives from Belleville here today, and of course that's where we came in on the train today. Belleville is the industrial and commercial epicentre of our riding. Everything flows from that: our governance at the county and municipal levels. We're very well represented here today.
Of course, if you happen to be like most Canadians, you are a hockey fan. You'll be paying attention to the Memorial Cup, and our Belleville Bulls will be one of the teams representing Ontario. We're very proud of that, so there's always a “Go Bulls Go” chant when that comes around.
If you continue north in our riding, through centre and north Hastings, there are hundreds of lakes and rivers and a very diverse but rural population. I certainly don't want to take time away from the meeting, because there are some serious issues to discuss, but one of the things we're absolutely known for is our quality of life. I think you can see it. It's an idyllic situation with a great blend of everything. And really, the predominant feature here is the friendliness of the people. I know that's what I grew up with, and it's what drew me back here.
I'll just finish with a saying from Helen Steiner-Rice, that strangers are friends we have not met. So I can assure you that in this area no one is ever a stranger.
Enjoy the hearing today. I look forward to some information coming out that will be helpful for both our communities and the federal government in its progress.
It's my pleasure to speak this morning about the waterfront of the city of Belleville. I'm going to speak from two perspectives: first as a resident of the area—I did live in the county for a good number of years, Daryl—as well as a city employee.
I want to first stress the fact that the Belleville waterfront is unique, inasmuch as when you look at our area—and I'm very proud of the county—there's one aspect of the county at the north end: its limited access for the public. There are very few areas where we can get to the waterfront without going over private property.
The City of Belleville had the foresight many years ago to start looking at the waterfront and start working with our federal government and entering into an agreement. In 1984, we took over the management of what we refer to as the Meyers Pier, which is our number one harbour.
We have two that are in your jurisdiction. The second one is Victoria Harbour, and we operated it with volunteers many years ago. In 1994, the City of Belleville created an agreement with the federal government, with a lease for the waterlot, and we took over the management of it.
Since 1984, the City of Belleville, in conjunction with the small craft harbours program, has invested a lot of money into our waterfront. We had non-capital funding from the federal government and we had capital funding. This has allowed the City of Belleville to develop a waterfront that is unique, and we refer to it as the jewel of our community.
In the region, we have many municipalities that have waterfront, but again, limited access. We have Meyers Pier. It allows transients to come to our region and enjoy what we have in the city of Belleville. It also permits our seasonal boaters, our local people, to enjoy our waterways. We are fortunate that we got into this agreement.
When the federal government announced the divestiture program, we had great concerns initially. We were afraid we would lose access to our waterfront and that the city would not have the opportunity, because the dollars required to operate it would not come forth.
Fortunately, our federal government came forward, and we entered into a number of agreements over the years to allow us to get involved with the divestiture program and take a look at where we can go in the future. We did share-costing programs to do a master plan, and we did some environmental assessments. Then finally, with the results of those studies, we entered into an agreement in 2003-04 for a partnership whereby, through the small craft harbours program and Treasury Board and a number of other departments within the federal government and through the city, we could look at cleaning up the Meyers Pier and waterfront area and developing it for the city to take it over.
That was a $10 million commitment from the federal government and a $5 million commitment from the City of Belleville. At the City of Belleville, and in particular in my department, a $5 million expenditure, let alone the money you're providing, is a lot of money for city taxpayers. We have the commitment, and we made this commitment with the view that with the combination of $15 million we could have an outstanding waterfront and be able to operate it safely for everyone involved.
In the years that have passed since we got into this partnership, a number of things have changed in the province. Our Ministry of Environment regulations have changed, and we need to adhere to those as a municipality. The federal government, of course, works with the provincial government and tries to adhere to them, but we have to adhere to them.
Unfortunately, in our original projection we were looking at $10 million and $5 million as a reasonable amount to get to where the city could afford to operate it. Now, to date, as of this past week, we have spent $3,060,000 on studies, to get the waterfront area studied and get our certificates of approval from the Ministry of the Environment and conditions of use for our property. So there have been a lot of extra studies, and a lot of extra money has had to be spent.
Believe me, I do appreciate the $10 million, but we are now looking at possibly considering that there are some additional liabilities that are going to come along. In our tour this afternoon I will gladly show the committee members where we're going to go and how we're going to proceed.
The $15 million—I'm pleased to say we put our tender out, and the tender is within budget, so we're ready to enter into that.
As it relates to the city operation, in our 2008 operating budget for the City of Belleville, we're forecasting $49,000 of tax subsidy to operate the waterfront area. When we as a city take it over, there are a number of issues we need to address in regard to costing, and that will be the costing as it relates to the need to have a pre-treatment plant for the water, the underground water, because of the contamination at Meyers Pier, and also the need for maintenance of the facilities, because the infrastructure that presently is the federal government's will be ours and we'll have some liabilities.
We, as a city, want to take this on, and we want to have that waterfront a reality for us. However, I also have to look at what the impact is on our taxpayers for that operation. Our council is committed to it. We are here now to see whether the committee would look at the future in regard to the small craft harbours operation in their budget. Would there be consideration for the small craft harbours program to work with the City of Belleville, as it relates to a fund that would allow us to slowly go into the full cost of operation of that harbour, whether it's a reserve fund or some kind of funding, through your annual budget, which would be allocated out for these types of harbours?
I know you still have a number of harbours left on the sites. I believe there are approximately 120 that are still federally owned and are involved with this divestiture. But there are realities in regard to the costing for any taxpayer, whether they're paying taxes to the federal, provincial, or municipal government. We, as a city, want to proceed and are committed to proceed. We would ask this committee to recommend that the funding for such harbours that are being divested to the various municipalities be given consideration for operating costs and potential additional unexpected capital costs.
It is unfortunate that Angela had another appointment. She is our partner with the Chamber of Commerce. Basically, as a city we partner with the Belleville Chamber of Commerce on tourism, to promote the area.
The chamber is behind the project presented, as we all say, but the point is to make Belleville more than only a stop on the 401 for a Timmy's and a gas break. I think with this waterfront property, if we can get the means to make it a tourist destination.... The problem we have is tax dollars. When we look at taking it back and cleaning it up, we're still with a piece of land that really has no infrastructure on it, in the sense of buildings, skating rinks, etc. Our long-term master plan, which we have drawn up, is a plan that is going to cost, probably, upwards of $20 million to $30 million once we complete the dream.
Unfortunately, in Belleville the tax base and our income is only on the backs of user fees and property taxes. So as Director Buck stated, in order to keep parkland going, there's a cost. When $700,000 is basically 1% of the tax base, or a 1% increase in taxes, we have to look at partnerships and whether the partnership can continue with the upper tier governments, in a sense, to get the project to make it a tourist destination.
That's basically where the chamber is at. We can promote Belleville and we can get people to stop, but it's a matter of keeping them here and making this a destination and an economic driver in the tourism business.
When you look at Ontario as a whole, we have been very fortunate regarding employment and having a diverse economy with industry and a shopping destination. Our tourism has probably lacked in the sense that we do not have any big tourist attractions. We've been a kind of gateway to the winery in the county and a stopover.
With the harbour project, we see concerts being booked on the waterfront and hotels being booked up to come and see Belleville. I think if we can get people here and get them to stop, they'll stay, but we need to put more money in the waterfront.
I think a lot of the public feels that the cleanup is going to build buildings, that it will have a skating rink and is going to be complete, but basically the cleanup will only get us to the point where the Bay of Quinte waterway will be a better place to live, the contaminants that are leaching into the bay will stop, and it will be the start of the jewel, as Director Buck said.
I think it is important for us to keep the partnerships with both governments, and hopefully more infrastructure money will come down the pike in order to build buildings and make it a draw, not only for the health of the community and the residents of Belleville to enjoy the waterfront, but for others to stop and keep the dollars in our city.
Again, we've seen other communities that have given up their waterfronts, and I think I could probably pose the question as this. What would the federal government do if we didn't take it over? That was a question that was really never answered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
As a political football, it didn't seem there was really a good outcome unless we took it over. Now whether it was a bluff that we would have had to play and say we weren't interested in spending the money, and see what the next step was.... Obviously, the land is leased to us, and I believe the lease is up in the next year. So council did support it with some reservations, I guess. The reservations are about the next step. We've seen some of our waterfront down the road that is industrially polluted and in the wrong hands; we'd end up with the worst nightmare, if somebody does take it over and doesn't do a proper cleanup. If we lose our waterfront, what are we going to leave with our citizens down the road? That's my children and your children. The sense is that if it does go into private hands and it's not cleaned up properly—and we see that right now in another land case—it could get a whole lot worse.
The only situation I'll allude to is that recreation is not profit-bearing for the city. Taking the property over, we're definitely going to have greater operating costs, and I don't see any way of any revenue really coming out that's going to cover those costs. When you look at our long-term master plan, yes, recreation contributes to our being a healthy community. It's a circle. When you have waterfront festivals and you have the tourism coming in, it doesn't really benefit the city coffers. It benefits the tax base, as in the hotels and the business, but we really don't have any income. And when I look at the facilities and what we have there, the people who walk away with the money are the provincial and federal governments, with the GST and PST. We have an event and we spend $100,000 on a waterfront festival, and we end up breaking even or contributing money towards it, and with the GST and the PST, the federal and provincial governments are the ones that benefit. Again, it helps jobs and it helps industry, but it does cost the taxpayers money to have these events.
I've always been wondering, in the sense of what we need.... I guess to say it politely, the tax system is broken. For every dollar that's collected in taxes, the municipality gets 8¢ and the upper tiers get the 92¢, and we provide 60% of the services. We've taken this land over, we're going to be providing more services, and it's going to cost us more money. That's what we have to be aware of overall.
Perhaps I'll try to answer, and Marjorie can assist as need be.
To confirm the first question, the $3.1 million that's been spent does come out of the $15 million. That's not an extra on top. The MIII moneys that come from the province are on top of the $15 million, but of course that's not part of the agreement between DFO and the city.
Have we asked DFO for additional assistance? In a formal way, no. In an informal way, we have made it clear that we are facing some challenges. So we've spoken to staff and we've spoken to Mr. Kramp about this. In an indirect way, yes, we have expressed those concerns, but there has not been a formal request or a formal application, if you will, that's been put forward. We'd certainly welcome the opportunity, presented by our appearance today, to perhaps make that concern somewhat more formally.
In terms of tourism, yes, we do see this as an opportunity for us to grow our economy. With the county and the city participating in this, we do believe there is opportunity for growth, and the harbour is a very important part of that future. On the idea of the city realizing some benefits from that, indeed, we would certainly hope that would be the case.
We do recognize that oftentimes jobs created through the tourism industry are seasonal. They're not quite the same in terms of income and they don't have quite the same long-term economic impact as, say, a full-time manufacturing job. We'd have to take that into account, not that we still don't want to pursue it. That is a factor certainly that we're very well aware of.
We haven't done any formal long-term economic impact assessments with regard to this. There's no question that the benefit of harbour divestiture, of harbour development in terms of the city's long-term prospects for tourism, was a factor that helped council make the decision to, if you will, take the risk and move ahead with the program, because they do see those benefits. We haven't quantified those impacts in any formal way.
I hope that answers your question.
In regard to the change in our operations, I'm actually very pleased to advise the committee that Meyers Pier in Victoria Harbour right now is at approximately 80% capacity.
So anticipating that we can just take that extra little step and have a full operation, we are looking at, from our seasonal boaters, an approximate revenue of $150,000 per year.
If we have the opportunity to advance in regard to our commercial development on the pier itself and make that an attraction.... What we are hearing from our boaters who pass us by and go down to Cobourg, which is another outstanding harbour that the municipality is involved with, is that our amenities are lacking. We need to look at our infrastructure for wireless communication for boaters who take their work on vacation or who just want to be in touch with their family.
From our transient boaters, we average about $35,000 a year in revenue. Our fuel sales range anywhere from $120,000 to $141,000 a year. Regarding improvements, which are covered under this contract coming up, we are changing our fuel system, which should enhance it.
We are competing against our neighbours to the west, Quinte West, which is the entrance to our Trent-Severn system, and again, if our boaters are doing the Trent-Severn system, they'll go by and they'll fuel up at the Fraser docks.
If we had the extra amenities, I think they would stay and look at it. We're projecting that with some investments, commercially as well as to infrastructure for the actual boater, we should get up to at least a 90% to 95% factor.
Welcome. As Leo has indicated, thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. I understand this committee doesn't get to Ontario very often, so this is great.
I'll start by providing a little background about the divestiture of recreational harbours in the County of Prince Edward. Following the 1995 decision of the government to divest, the municipality at that time decided to commission a study. It was a harbour divestiture, infrastructure, and economic assessment study, to determine whether or not it was in the best interests of the municipality to divest.
We had six possible locations that could be divested, six federal properties. The study recommended and council approved that we divest five of those six. The only one that was not divested was Point Traverse, which is located at the southwestern tip of the county. It has since been designated as a national wildlife area, so presumably it went to the Ministry of the Environment.
I will walk briefly through each of the divestitures we have completed and the ones that are remaining, simply to give you a little bit of our experience with each of them and to give you an indication of how they've benefited the county.
The first one we divested is referred to as Northport and is located in Sophiasburgh Ward on the Bay of Quinte at the northern end of the municipality. The Bay of Quinte, of course, we share with the municipality of Belleville and others.
The federal dock was on site there. It was about a 30-metre wharf, with a smaller inner wharf next to it, so to speak, of 12 to 15 metres. That was the only federal property, but the municipality owned a boat launch ramp right next to the property. The federal property is also attached to a three-acre municipal park on the mainland there.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans provided $10,000 in 2001 to make the required repairs to the wharves, based on research and quotes and analyses the municipality did of the condition. Once the repairs were completed, the property was legally transferred in 2003.
The property, now municipally owned, continues to be used as a docking facility, primarily for recreational boating and fishing, and together with the park it's attached to, it hosts numerous community events, picnics, family gatherings, and those kinds of things. Certainly, from our perspective, it is serving a good recreational purpose.
Waupoos mainland was the second one that was divested, and it's located in North Marysburgh Ward on the shore of Lake Ontario. The property included an approximately 30-metre wooden wharf that needed to be totally replaced. In 2003, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, through the federal Department of Public Works, replaced the wharf at a cost of approximately $240,000, and then the property was formally transferred to the county in 2004.
This facility serves as a home for a barge that provides access to Waupoos Island, because that's the only way to get there--by boat, of course; it's an island. There is sheep farming that takes place on the island, and the barge is docked at Waupoos mainland dock and serves the purpose of moving livestock, as well as equipment and people, to and from the island for farming and visiting purposes.
Waupoos Island was next in line. It's located in Lake Ontario, off the shore of North Marysburgh Ward. It had a 20-metre concrete dock that was in need of some repair. In 2004, the DFO provided $20,000 in funding. Through that funding, the municipality made the repairs to our satisfaction. The ownership was transferred in 2005.
This dock primarily serves the farming industry on the island. There has been some application for permanent residence on the island. There are houses on the island, but they have not been occupied for a number of years. The owners are looking at making it more usable for residential living, so the barge may be used in the future to transport the people who live there.
Those are the three harbour properties that have been divested to the municipality.
The Wellington facility is now in the process of being divested—the transfer documents are actually in the hands of our solicitor. Wellington facility is very much a success story. It's a good news story. The community has rallied around the development of Wellington Harbour. There is a large beach area. With the work that DFO and the federal government have done with the municipality, you have become very much a partner in the development of the harbour, along with numerous volunteer community organizations. It's nice to see the feds in this partnership.
This year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans provided $266,000 to replace a 58-metre docking facility owned by the feds. This has recently been completed, and you'll be able to see the finished product today when you visit.
Significant improvements have taken place at the harbour over the last two or three years. It's the main wharf in the harbour, a jewel in the development, and we appreciate the involvement of the federal government.
There are a couple of issues that we will address later regarding Wellington.
The only remaining federal property to be divested is in Picton, and the federal property there is located at the Prince Edward Yacht Club in Picton Harbour.
We've had a subcontracting agreement with the yacht club for a number of years. They manage and collect the fees for the docks. We are hoping to divest that into work with DFO sometime in 2009.
There has been some research done on that site by federal Public Works, I believe, regarding the requirements there. Seawall issues have to be looked at before the municipality will be in a position to assume ownership. We're hoping to do that in 2009.
Picton and Wellington are by far our busiest harbours. Picton is easily at 85% to 90% capacity for most of the boating season. With the expansion and development during the last two years, we're anticipating a similar situation for Wellington. Last year, Wellington was 65% to 70% occupied, and we're expecting that to increase this year with the additional docking facilities that we've been able to provide.
In general, the municipality of Prince Edward County has been very pleased with the divestiture process. The staff at DFO have been significantly cooperative and helpful in many ways, and fortunately we've been able to deal with the same people from the beginning, so that certainly helps.
We have been pleased in all cases. The funding required to bring the facilities to the standard that was acceptable to the municipality has been met, and in turn, the bureaucracy, for lack of a better term, has been pretty easy in terms of bureaucracy. It hasn't been a major issue and there haven't been a lot of political ramifications in any way, shape, or form. So we've been pleased with the process over the course of the last five or six years that we've been divesting our federal properties.
The most significant issue we have with our harbours is in fact in Wellington. Every two years the municipality is spending in the neighbourhood of $80,000 to $100,000 to dredge the channel, to ensure safe access to the harbour and the facilities that are within the harbour. Years ago, I think it was in the late 1980s, the channel was developed with the cooperation, at that time, of a multi-partnership between the municipality, the provincial government, the federal government, and the local conservation authority. I'm not exactly sure of the division of responsibilities during that development, but I know that all four groups were involved in building the channel to create the access from Lake Ontario into Wellington Harbour. Since that time there has been no provincial or federal money put into that channel. The jetties on both sides of the channel have deteriorated significantly, to the point where there is going to have to be significant dollars spent on them within the next two to three years, at the very outset.
We have, through various means, tried to look at long-term solutions to the silting problem, and for the last four years we have looked at every possible solution that I think is available. We have run into one that is almost identical to our situation in Pickering, in Frenchman's Bay. They are currently working with both the provincial government and the federal government on funding. It sounds like 50-50 funding between those two governments for what is going to be approximately a $7 million project to extend their jetties to alleviate the problem they have been having, very similar to ours, which has been dredging every two years.
We're hoping we can look at doing a similar project with provincial and federal support, to eventually resolve the issue we have there in Wellington, from having to spend upwards of $100,000 every two years just to ensure that boats can get in and out.
So that's where we currently stand with our divestiture process. As I said, for the most part, the municipality has been pleased, Mr. Chairman, and we're certainly willing to answer questions or have further discussion.
I'm Roxy Lancaster. My partner is Albert Vancott. We fish commercially out of Point Traverse Harbour. I must say, right off the bat, I've got to commiserate with the gentleman from Belleville; you do not want your harbour or your docks to fall into the wrong hands. Ours has. It's fallen to Environment Canada, whose purpose in life is basically to exclude all people from the CWS--Canadian Wildlife Service--properties at Long Point. Currently, they're encouraging the birders, but ultimately they would like it as a reserve area, where no man treads. This seems to be Environment Canada's mandate.
When Environment Canada took over the property from private hands, we had to struggle, but we made a deal with them to retain properties along the harbour side and the docks we had currently, to continue the commercial fishery in this area.
Now, I go back at least four generations, to the United Empire Loyalists, all of whom were fishermen in my past. My father's side of the family came into the fishery sort of sideways; his father had been a farmer.
Environment Canada basically has no budget. Probably because of their political games a couple of years ago, most of the staff in Ottawa has been fired. I worked for Environment Canada part-time as a contract worker, doing small repairs and such. Basically our harbour has been let go to total rack and ruin, to the point where the harbour actually was closed clear across. The beach just simply moved in and covered the entrance.
Over the past few years, most of the maintenance has been done out of pocket by the commercial fishermen and other interested user groups. The anglers and the commercial fishery get along very well here. Everybody is more than willing to throw into the pot when it comes time to dredge. For the guy who operates the dredging equipment, basically a lot of his work is unpaid. But the harbour channel now needs work, and it needs armour stone on the outside of it to prevent further closures. The problem is that in the thirties and the fifties we had high water, before the Seaway was built. It eroded away the protective entrance at the outer harbour, and this is why we're getting these problems now. If it were armour stoned one time, dredged back to a depth of nine feet, and the silt cleaned out of the harbour properly, we'd be good to go for years to come.
Long Point Harbour is a safe haven harbour. At least it was. Quite frankly, I don't like to detract from Mr. Finnegan's presentation, but if you're in trouble on Lake Ontario and you try to go into Wellington Harbour on a bad day, you're going to get yourself real dead. The Canadian Coast Guard—I think it was Canadian, it may have been American—lost a vessel in the bay outside Wellington. It was a coast guard vessel. The man on board perished. It's not a nice place to come in a bad storm. Lake Ontario needs safe haven harbours. Ours is basically the only harbour between Cobourg and, for the sake of argument, Waupoos, where there's a safe haven to get in off that open lake.
The fishery rescues sailboats and recreational boaters really often. Twice last spring, two days in a row, we pulled vessels off the end of Waupoos and the end of False Ducks, vessels that had gone on the shoals unknowingly and would probably have been broken up in very short order if we hadn't gone in and got them, at risk to our own vessel.
We need to get that harbour back into somebody's hands, whether it be the county or whoever. Basically we need to get that harbour back into the hands of somebody who cares. Right now they don't care. They would just as soon see it closed.
We are operating about six boats out of the harbour at this time, the biggest being 60 feet, mine being 35.
It's an active fishery, so far. I know the fishery is dying, but we're still trying. Off and on we have to work out, but most of our lives we've worked the commercial fishery.