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COLUMN: The people have spoken: Now it’s time for our politicians to get to work

"The people of this County and Township have spoken – Ted, Jill, Bruce, you have the full support of your constituents, it’s time to get to work to keep the Keewatin home,' columnist says
Dan Travers holds a tablet showing the petition, which has garnered close to 8,000 signatures. Submitted photo

Close to 8,000 Simcoe County residents have signed a petition indicating that they wish the SS Keewatin, currently moored in Port McNicoll, to stay exactly where it is. Yet, reports are beginning to surface that the ship will shortly be heading to Kingston.

Although the circumstances surrounding the sale of the development at the mooring are in negotiation, the issue with the ship is perfectly simple – Skyline Investments wants a tax receipt from a federally designated heritage organization, and is unwilling to honour its commitment to the region and wait for the Friends of Keewatin to achieve this status.

The Friends, the registered charity which curates the vessel, has worked hard over the past months to put an application together for this heritage status to the federal government, but these applications take time, and now they are in competition with the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston with all their resources, political will and a potential $10-million cheque from the federal government.

For the signatories of the petition, some of whom have a deeply personal connection to the ship, the major players in the effort to keep Keewatin home need to do more to ensure that the ship stays in Simcoe County.

The people of this community have made their feelings clear: Port, not Kingston, is Keewatin’s home.

It is time for our politicians at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels to use this public support, cut through the bureaucratic red tape and stand up for the residents of this community.

Tay Mayor Ted Walker once wrote about the Keewatin that he ‘hopes things will work out’ so that the ship can stay. We need more than ‘hope,’ however, we need a council willing to work hard to prioritize the wishes of thousands of their residents.

Jill Dunlop has promised support from the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Tourism, Sport and Culture.

Will Jill be in her office at Queen’s Park on the day the ship sails away from her riding for good, or will we cheer as we see her cut the ribbon on a brand-new Keewatin development in Port McNicoll?

Bruce Stanton has been a steadfast member of Parliament for Simcoe North for fourteen years yet has indicated he is not planning to run for re-election. Ergo, will one of his last acts as our representative be presiding over the loss of this treasured piece of local history? Will he stand there and wave as the tugboats come to take it away? Or will we see him proudly making the first speech at the renewed Merchant Marine commemorations?

With 7,945 signatures on the petition (as of this morning), the people of this County and Township have spoken – Ted, Jill, Bruce, you have the full support of your constituents, it’s time to get to work to keep the Keewatin home.

Dan Travers is a college professor and the author of two books on public history. Involved with numerous community organizations in North Simcoe, he is a proud resident of Port McNicoll.