NIAGARA FALLS – With the integrity of the Niagara Parks Commission being called into question, it’s time for the provincial government to assume direct management of the park, says the union representing more than 600 seasonal and full-time park employees.
The commission has a record of mismanagement and secrecy that goes beyond its recent controversial decision to renew the lease of the Maid of the Mist without going to tender, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
“Our members report that the park’s infrastructure and lands are deteriorating while the commission makes irresponsible spending decisions,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
The union cites four examples of mismanagement:
- The leasing of the Niagara Parks Marina without going to tender;
- The renovation and development of a $40-million attraction, including a new ride, the Fury, that hasn’t attracted as many visitors as projected and has created no new jobs;
- The elimination of 250 unionized jobs in the past eight years, causing the deterioration in quality of the parkland and buildings; and
- The installation of a $50,000 air conditioning system for its restaurant by the falls, Elements, while laying off chefs at the restaurant.
“With the Niagara region suffering from the second-highest unemployment rate in the province, it is irresponsible for the McGuinty government to let Niagara Parks slide into further decline,” said Thomas. “Only direct ministerial accountability can return the park to fiscal responsibility.”
The majority of the park’s workforce is seasonal employees. The union is concerned that the work season is being slashed by the commission in an attempt to deal with its money woes.
“The commissioners have dealt with a crisis of their own making by laying off staff and shortening the season, causing great hardship to the workers, to the regional economy which has already taken a hit, and to the thousands of visitors to the Niagara peninsula,” said Bill Rudd, president of OPSEU Local 217, representing unionized employees of the park.
The Niagara Parks Commission is an agency of the Government of Ontario that reports to the Ministry of Tourism.