Squeaky Wheels, etc.

Well, there seems to be some support for the notion that the push-back against the government proposal to shorten the canal season brought this partial success – make 2012 a regular season and shorten 2013 ( and beyond?) I’ve heard from a number of Corridor citizens and have talked to others.

We need to use this time to sharpen our arguments and consider how best to save the government from themselves.

All reasonable ideas (short of armed insurrection, I suppose) are worth considering and bringing them to the attention of local elected officials. Remind them that they are elected as well and serve at the pleasure of their constituents. Some tend to place party over common sense and local issues.

Always interested in ideas and suggestions. Send them along.


Mirabile dictu!!!! The Minister of the Environment (aka the big boss of Parks Canada) has just announced that the 2012 Canal season will not be shortened. This suggests that all the uproar (to which yours truly contributed – see post below) from the Corridor communities had the desired effect.

Hizzoner goes on to say that the shortening will now take place in 2013, following consultations with interested parties. Translated,  that means that he intends to go ahead and the only decisions to be made revolve around how much smoke and mirror technology will be brought to bear.

Those who fretted about making waves lest some spray might be kicked up and dampen relationships between Corridor citizens and Parks Canada now have an opportunity to show how they will approach the issues involved.

Current score: Corridor 1; Parks Canada 0    Still, it’s early in the game.

Hard to believe that a World Heritage site like this one can’t attract enough visitors to fill a normal season. Perhaps the effort should go into determining what’s keeping the visitors away, not simply in throwing up hands. Unless —- perhaps the goal is really to cut the season back and hope that they can fill a shorter season more easily. This meets a short-term goal to “save dollars”, with an unspoken belief that they can always turn things back on when times get better. Then, of course, if the people have already found something else to do with their travel $, and don’t come back,  you shrug and say, “The people have voted and don’t want a longer season!”

I’ve heard that song before, and it didn’t sound all that good then either.

Naturally, the opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Just because they make sense doesn’t mean that I had help in reaching these opinions from any and all groups of which I may be a member.

The following article appeared in the Westport Review-Mirror of Thursday, April 19, 2012. I am reprinting it here for the benefit of those who do not have access to this fine Rideau Corridor weekly newspaper. Naturally, the sentiments expressed are purely my own and are far from being the opinion of The Friends of the Rideau.

The impact of the coming Rideau Canal “Right Sizing” exercise promises to be really severe on the canal staff, the attractiveness of the Corridor as a destination, and, of course, on the Corridor communities. Couple all that with high gas prices here and in the US and tourism will be really smacked!

On the other hand, the maintenance of the grounds around the lock stations is bound to be cut back. This may have the unintended benefit of having the lock stations return to a more traditional look – high grass, weeds, etc., which will, no doubt, be better for the environment. I believe that they tried this once before in one of the canal shutdowns. Perhaps management is getting a bum rap – they’re secret environmental weenies (yeah, right!).

You would almost think that the effort to get a World Heritage designation was never really intended to succeed by the top brass, who would regard it as a useful PR exercise that UNESCO would never approve. Horrors ! It was approved. OK – let’s drag our feet on the subsequent parts of the mandate – the cultural landscape studies, for example. If we can only slow this down enough and do a poor enough job on other things, maybe we can get the Designation reversed. After all, we don’t need the entire canal open to run Winterfest every year – we only need to maintain the section from Hartwell’s to the Ottawa locks.

Something similar could be done at Jones Falls. Keep it going as a tourist attraction and hire local boaters to go through on a schedule – go down river and then turn around and lock back up – brilliant! Get some local youth and lock staff to dress up in period costumes, etc., and sell the opportunity to have your photo taken with the quaint local citizens. Every summer weekend you can have local groups perform – drama, music, dancing, beer tent, maybe a little casino?

Even better – let’s take a page from early railway promoters and encourage municipalities, etc., to agree to pay subsidies to poor old Parks Canada for keeping the local lock stations open. For example, they might extend the Jones Falls performances all the way up to the Narrows. Sort of a poor man’s Disney World – you get the idea – it’s not real, but the kids like it and the tourists will lap it up. I think we can make this work.

Now a lot of local historians ( I name no names) may object, but they are simply blocking progress.

I could go on but people might think that I was bitter or else doing this tongue in cheek. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I offer this as a free suggestion to CEO Alan L. and his gang of merry men and women back at the “Shoddy Towers” in Gatineau. It worked for Robin Hoo, who is still getting good PR. Taking from the poor to give to the rich, or something like that – I forget how the Mission Statement goes.

All of this will spur interest in my book, “Invisible Army” that covers earlier examples of such inspired budget exercises. Pretty soon I’ll have to get on the road and start the “Invisible Army” marching – “Left, right, left, right ! Forward, march ! Corridor  book stores – prepare for landslide sales !

Here we go again!

Well, the start of a new season on the Rideau-so what’s new?

For those who may have heard of the short season being imposed this year, be philosophical. As the book tells the story, this has happened before in living memory. As a matter of fact, that great organization, the Friends of the Rideau, was born from the desire of those Rideau-philes and local settlers’ descendants to see the beloved canal preserved.

The whole thing is in the book !!

The Landscape Strategy is “rapidly” (a joke, son) creeping up on the same schedule, i.e., it may take as long to complete as it did to build the canal in the first place. And imagine if you will, that public input has been restricted, so that it can’t hamper progress ! It isn’t clear what the problems are that are causing the glacial pace, and we probably don’t want to know.

E-Books, Anyone?

I was given a Kindle for Christmas and have begun learning how to use it. I’ve been practicing on free ebooks from Gutenberg, which familiarizes me with how to use the thing, as well as getting to read some of the classics or even not-so-classic old books.

It got me thinking of doing an e-book on the Rideau. This at least has the merit (for me) of not involving printers) and lugging boxes of books around. Perhaps an historical fiction, based on real characters and real situations. Lots of examples out there and lots of free software to make it work.  I already have a few pages done and they work well (technically, not necessarily as great literature – no doubt that will come ) – yeah, right!

Onward and upward! Bastardi non carborumdum!


Himself !!!

Well, it had to happen sooner or later, I suppose. My main computer crashed late last week, taking everything with it. Fortunately, I do have backups, on standby hard drives (2), DVDs (lots), and lately in the “cloud (Dropbox). So, I think that I’ll be OK when it gets back up.

Not being a true computer geek, it helps to have family members who are part of that fraternity (sorority?) – is there a gender-neutral “ity”? By dint of hours running AV programs, we discovered that there were at least two nasty viruses (viri?) which had managed to sneak in and wreak havoc. Not sure that we have them all out – as this is written on my laptop, the main computer is struggling to heal itself.

Don’t know if there is a moral to all this or not.

Canal Deaths

Following on from yesterday’s post, I mentioned the figure of 1000 deaths at Smiths Falls for canal construction workers to Ken Watson, who had done a lot of research into this topic.

He said that workers and others who died during construction were buried in what is now the Old Ward Burial Ground, then located at the corner of Aberdeen Avenue and Jessie Street. Ken reckons that perhaps there were a few dozen deaths. As far as he is aware from factual information, there were 2 funerals for canal workers and there was a headstone discovered in 1957 for a master mason who died in 1831.

It’s beginning to seem that if all the deaths that were thought to have occurred at various places had actually taken place, this would amount to more than most estimates of the number of workers who were actually employed.


Ken’s view is that the total number of deaths for the entire canal might be somewhat less than 1,000. I agree. When I was doing research for Invisible Army, I came across deaths after the canal had been built. As I point out in the book, there were lots of opportunities for accidental death ( and I named a few), as well as diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever (typhus).

I haven’t looked into these two causes closely apart from canal staff impacts such as Lockmaster Thomas Buck at Merrickville. When the canal shut down for 3 months during the summer of 1847, due to the fear of spreading typhus by transporting Irish immigrants, this reflected a very real and present threat.

I hope that this helps to clarify things a bit. We will never know the total impact of accidental and disease-related deaths, I guess.