By Peter McBride
Expansion Committee Chair
I am so glad I didn’t have to work at the club today. Don’t get me wrong I love the club but today is a day where we are supposed to reflect upon and honour all those who have laboured for the benefit of others.
Traditionally, Labour Day was an occasion to advocate for and celebrate workers' rights. Trade unions were illegal in Canada until 1872 and many work environments were oppressive and dangerous. Today we reap the benefits of a coordinated and cooperative effort by many to bring about change in the way work and worker’s rights are viewed in society.
The vision shown by union leaders and Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. McDonald, who’s government repealed legislation outlawing trade unions, came about after much public support and demonstration of the civic will by the citizens of the day for change and improvement to their society.
Today, Labour Day is a celebration of that history and the benefits of those long ago efforts and vision that now allows us to enjoy time with our families and friends engaged in all manner of leisure and restorative pursuits away from work.
Which brings me to the point where perhaps you will need a little bit of background to understand the merit of my ramble. You see the Rideau Canoe Club project was very much a struggle to manage. Every step of the way problems were encountered that at times seemed insurmountable only to be resolved by the incredible union that was the project team. Equally, many of the problems had political guidance and government assistance in their successful resolution.
In my previous articles I introduced the project team and some of the workers whose knowledge, skills and abilities brought to fruition the dream of a new clubhouse focused on the needs of our members, programs and services provided to our greater paddling community.
Today it is time to reflect on the tremendous role played by governments and dedicated staff working together to build a vibrant community resource and demonstrating what can be done when all levels work together.
Federally, the Honourable John Baird M.P. Ottawa West Nepean in his capacity as Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities demonstrated vision in approving the project. Provincially, the Office of the Premier, former Minister of Municipal Affairs Jim Watson and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi partnered with their federal counterparts to ensure that the investments made by government had social and economic benefits that enhanced our community.
Municipally, Mayor Larry O’Brien was instrumental in marshalling our project onto the approved list of recreation infrastructure to be considered as eligible for Recreation Infrastructure Canada (RinC) and Ontario Recreation (Ontario REC) programs. River Ward Councillor Maria McRae was our primary advocate and her acumen and diplomacy with all levels of government created the opportunity for the dream of a new Rideau Canoe Club and world-class paddling/training facility becoming a reality.
Maria demonstrated how councillors and city government should work with city staffers. Program Manager of Recreation Planning & Facility Development, Josee Helie was a key city staff member who worked with the Councillor and the assigned city project team of Renee Proteau, Ian Craig and Paul Hussar, all of whom worked tirelessly on behalf of the project.
I related earlier that there were problems and as we neared completion of the structure we were stopped dead in our tracks and left without funding for the new steps and barrier free access to the water by circumstances beyond our control and poor communication. The Councillor addressed the problem with me and then worked with City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick to develop a solution and have staff implement it. Our opening day ceremonies on the 3rd of September proved how city government could work together. The new stairs and barrier free access made the club the first fully accessible club in Canada. Wow!
Like the first organizers of the labour movement there were many barriers in the realization of the new Rideau Canoe Club. Like that time in the late 1800’s, there are people of vision and commitment to civic society who through their efforts have brought lasting change to the community and sport by their personal investments.
It is a Labour Day to remember… … WOW!