NWOTA gets boost from Manitoba

The North Western Ontario Tourism Association is not alone in its efforts to maintain a thriving industry in the face of increasing costs and government regulations, it learned at its annual meeting last Thursday in Emo.
Guest speaker Jim Ticknor, president of the Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association, made it clear they support NWOTA’s efforts to, among other things, bring back the spring bear hunt and simplify some of the current regulations governing the tourism industry.
“I want you to know the Manitoba outfitters are fully behind you to get the spring bear hunt back,” he stressed.
Since the hunt was abolished by the government of former premier Mike Harris back in 1999, area outfitters have seen a substantial drop in their annual revenues.
Furthermore, much of that lost business has gone to Manitoba, which still has the spring bear hunt.
But the province is not the only burr under NWOTA’s saddle. Ticknor pointed out certain changes to the Canada Shipping Act three years ago now are being applied to outfitters.
For instance, the federal government is determined to have all power boats used at tourist camps to be registered as commercial vessels—an initiative that’s being strongly resisted in Manitoba.
“They don’t have a clue,” Ticknor remarked. “All of these new bureaucrats are ship’s captains. They know all about how to drive a tanker to Saudi Arabia and bring it back full of oil, but they don’t know anything about tourist camps.”
In addition to imposing an annual registration fee of $50 for each boat, the new regulations are trying to have the boats meet such safety standards as having navigation lights and a reliable ship-to-shore communication system.
There’s also the requirement that each operator have a licence equivalent to that held by a first mate on a freighter.
“These are dumb regulations,” charged Ticknor. “In the first place, they are unreasonable and secondly, they are unenforceable.”
He noted tourist outfitters never operate their boats at night or in fog, and that two-way radios—and even cell phones—rarely operate beyond a distance of two-three miles in remote locations.
“We’re father away from the dock than that by the time we get up on the step,” he remarked.
But the biggest irritant for Ticknor is the requirement for each boat to pass what he calls a “torture test” in order to receive a certificate of approval.
This involves deliberately flooding the boat to see if it still floats, and also loading it to its maximum weight and running it at full throttle in tight circles to see if it gets swamped.
Not surprisingly, many Manitoba operators flatly are refusing to subject their equipment to such abuse, but instead are telling the inspectors to bring in their own boats of identical manufacture and to conduct the tests on them.
Ticknor said the Manitoba outfitters currently are trying to bring about a new classification for their boats—one that is more in line with their actual function.
He also suggested NWOTA join the campaign to lobby for more outfitter representation on the federal committees that draft and enforce the regulations.
“The regulations must make sense and must be enforceable,” he stressed. “We need people in place who understand the nature of our business.”