Closing Dawson’s dredge is penny wise, pound poor

Open Letter to MP Ryan Leef: On September 11, I joined my community for one last public tour of Dredge #4. I am looking at my photos right now, and I posted them on my Facebook site for all to view. What I see is a dedicated group of longtime Yukoners wi

Open Letter to MP Ryan Leef:

On September 11, I joined my community for one last public tour of Dredge #4. I am looking at my photos right now, and I posted them on my Facebook site for all to view.

What I see is a dedicated group of longtime Yukoners with large end-of-the-season smiles. One of the guides mentioned how excited he was about a four-day moose hunt starting on the Stewart from the McQuesten airstrip, up to Dawson. Others spoke of the changing of gears this time of the year brings for most Klondikers.

I went out for the 10 a.m. tour and stayed around for the final noon tour: that was when the entire interpreter staff showed up to lend support. They all took the tour, one last time, together. These folks were definitely in that “end of the year” mode but there was a clear sense of bewilderment in the air, bewilderment and betrayal.

I had an opportunity to tour the reclamation work on the hull in between guided tours upstairs. Now that is impressive; that should be part of the tour. The crew, made up of a healthy mix of local carpenters and from-away expertise continue to work on the hull, replacing rotting structure with some of the most beautiful Douglas Fir I have ever seen.

I was struck with the irony – and this has been a comment heard all summer long – of millions of capital dollars being put into a structure that will be mothballed.

Yet our Dredge #4 tour is being closed.

Ottawa is doing poor math. It sees that the dredge only makes, in direct revenue, $30,000 to $40,000 a year. To the bean counters in Ottawa, this is the rationale behind the closure. They fail to recognize the trail of money these tourists leave in their wake, just to get up here, and the national relevance our collection of artifacts holds.

Klondike National Historic Sites has already suffered a large cut to salaries. While such cuts have occurred across the country, job loss has a far greater socio-economic impact in small northern communities such as Dawson.

Why is Parks Canada supporting heritage attractions in the East, while shortchanging the Yukon?

Parks Canada does still have money – it is just choosing not to support the Yukon.

Parks is spending mega-millions of dollars on a new “urban park” in Toronto, the War of 1812 and Franklin expedition projects. All good initiatives, but meanwhile the Dredge is being shut down and the S.S. Klondike converted to self-guided tours as part of a massive national strategy to reduce salary costs.

Parks Canada is slowly pulling out of Dawson and it will definitely impact Yukon tourism.

The Yukon Party campaigned on the benefits of a close relationship with the Government of Canada. Why are they letting this happen?

Tourism Minister Mike Nixon failed to even bring the dredge closure up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper while he was here on recent visit to Carcross.

Mr. Leef, you made a promise to stick up for Yukoners in Ottawa: I am hard pressed to find a more Yukonesque issue than the Dredge #4 closure: Why are you not speaking out against this cutback? Why are you taking your orders from Ottawa? Dawson and the Yukon deserve better.

As the MLA for the Klondike I know my constituents do not support these cuts. The city of Dawson and the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon do not support these cuts either.

According to national direction, Parks Canada is to move “to self-guided visitor activities at select national historic sites while maintaining guided activities at the majority of our national historic sites.” Why is the dredge visitor experience being downgraded to interpretative signs in the parking lot?

This amounts to a shut down. Pretending it is still being interpreted as a “self-guided site” by allowing people to read three signs in the parking lot is ridiculous.

There are local people doing the tours now, doing them really well, with many years of experience and they are losing their jobs. Yukoners care that Parks is taking away jobs, and that they are cutting back on their investment in our communities. This is your opportunity to stand up for Klondikers in Ottawa, Mr. Leef. I respectfully challenge you to fight for this unique part of our culture and our identity.

Yukoners should pressure the Government of Canada to sufficiently fund Parks Canada’s Yukon operations to maintain quality personal interpretation and management of the collection, without impacting other jobs or programs. It’s up to you, Mr. Leef, to lead the charge.

Sandy Silver is MLA of the Klondike and interim leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read