Members' Activity Update re: Houseboats

From BRLA President Brian Hawkins,

Your Board has received enquiries about the possible introduction of a large number of houseboats on to the Rideau Waterway.

We are awaiting a formal announcement from the Province of Ontario, which introduced such a concept to a public Eastern Ontario Economic Development workgroup last fall, in conjunction with Parks Canada. Until such an announcement is made, we have restricted insight as to what is being considered.

However, the BRLA Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Mr. Doug Kirkland, has met with Parks Canada, is monitoring these developments and offers the following details accumulated to date:

  • This initiative is still a long way from being a "done deal". 
  • Negotiations between Parks Canada, the Government of Ontario and a very successful European canal boat tour company are in place but far from complete.
  • This successful European canal boat tour company has toured the length of the Rideau Waterway with an eye to opening an operation here.
  • The business model is NOT COMPARABLE to the disastrous 3 Buoys pontoon houseboat incursion that Big Rideau Lake residents endured in the 90’s.
  • This model calls for low speed keel boats with added handling and navigational features (bow thruster & GPS) with a high level of boat operator training. 
  • The tour company is known to have strict and enforceable operational standards.
  • It is expected the prime target renter will be “high-end” European tourists looking to explore our UNESCO World Heritage site from the water, using the boats as transportation to take them to land based venues.
  • This is a key component because the Province’s goal is to deliver new business ($’s) to local merchants and businesses along the Rideau system.
  • We should expect to see regional infrastructure investments to facilitate these tourists – municipal docks and docking services being the most obvious.  
  • We should also expect to see business investments in communities around the lake to cater to these same tourists – restaurants and grocery stores to top the list.
  • It is probable that the base of operations will be Smiths Falls.
  • Rental packages are more likely to be weeklong rather than the weekend party models seen elsewhere.
  • Parks Canada will be an integral component in this venture, thereby ensuring a level of responsibility and accountability not seen in the 90’s.

We take relative comfort in what we have seen so far, understanding that this matter is a Provincial initiative and therefore we cannot dictate its evolution. However, Doug and his Committee have already met with and discussed Parks Canada’s role in administering this matter and we have been asked for input as the plan takes shape.

When more details are known, we will advise you immediately and in the meantime, if you have questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact either Doug or me at:

governmentaffairs@bigrideaulakeassociation.com / president@bigrideaulakeassociation.com