At Monday’s Committee of the Whole Council meeting, the results of a Safety Audit of the Harbour were presented. Also on the Agenda was a presentation by Jeremy Fowlie of the Dragon Boat and Canoe club who strongly criticized the “Audit” and said that implementing the recommendations would mean the club would need to shut down. Councillors Adam Bureau and Nicole Beatty (and others) asked leading questions – there was clearly a major concern by citizens, notably harbour user groups, and some suggestion that the Town was against club activities in the Harbour. In response, Dean Hustwick made an impassioned defence of the “audit” and his staff. This report will try to present both sides of the conflict which generated strong emotions on both sides.
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At the request of Teresa Behan, Deputy Director, Community Services Division, the Lifesaving Society‘s Audit Committee conducted an “audit” of the harbour which included a visit to the Harbour on February 5, 2019 although there was also a visit on Sept 19, 2018. Interviews were then held with:
- Paul Gauthier – Town of Cobourg Manager of Attractions and Facilities
- Shannon Murphy – Town of Cobourg Risk Manager
- Jeremy Fowlie and Dean Cotes – Dragon Boat and Canoe Club
- Trish Russell – Survivor Thrivers
- Alan Clough – Cobourg Yacht Club
They also reviewed existing documentation as supplied by Teresa.
Here is a summary of their recommendations: (See below for a link to the full report). The contentious items are in bold.
- Install an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) unit adjacent to the marina office.
- Ensure all Marina staff are standard first aid certified.
- Create a No Swimming bylaw for the harbour.
- The Town should draft a Harbour Emergency Procedures manual.
Procedures should include but are not limited to the following:
- Safe rescue
- Missing persons
- Fire Drills
- Major emergencies
- Cold Water submersion
- Reporting procedures
- The mandatory use of power craft in all programs as a safety vessel such as a personal watercraft, Boston whaler, or an IRB with motor.
- Educate users groups on the current state of the harbour.
A meeting or other communication mechanism should be used to ensure all harbour users are familiar with the current and future plans for the harbour. Items that should be communicated include but are not limited to:
- Updates and operation of the Harbour
- Expectations of use: contracts/lease agreements/permits for events
- Policies and procedures new & existing
- Formal scheduling of use of harbour
- Emergency Manual
- Revise the current harbour (boat slip) agreements.
- Enhance craft safety inside the harbour.
Separating motor craft and self-powered craft must be done to ensure everyone’s safety e.g. Specific areas and or times of use specified in their lease agreements
- Ensure all user groups are using a safety boat for all events, training, and programs.
A safety boat is used to manage boating and respond to emergencies. It is important to have this on the water when organized boating activities are taking place inside and outside of the harbour and that personnel operating this craft are trained and certified in their use and response to an emergency situation.
- Ensure that all harbour events and club scheduled activities adhere to the Town Special Events application process.
- Distribute the Lifesaving Society Dragon Boat Safety Guidelines.
- Enhance signage in the harbour and marina area.
- Complete a safety equipment audit.
- Clearly identify the egress ladders in the harbour.
- Ensure the user groups mandate the compulsory use of approved PFD’s by boaters while on the water.
- Conduct stray electrical current testing.
- Designate a camp user group indoor and outdoor space.
The audit results were presented by Shanna Reid and Patrick D’Almada – photo above right.
Councillors had been contacted by user groups and asked to ask questions that illustrate their view of the audit.
- Adam Bureau: Based on direction from Town staff, was your contract intended to support the marina expansion? Response: We knew about it but no.
- Adam Bureau: Was your intent to impede in any way the operations of any particular group, particularly the Dragon Boat and Canoe Club or the Yacht club? Response: Absolutely Not.
- Nicole Beatty: Were groups such as the business Green Canoe which operates paddle boats and the YMCA consulted? Response re YMCA – the beach had been previously audited and anyway, the Lifesaving Society are experts;
- Nicole Beatty: Why was site visit for audit in mid-winter and not during the season? Response: There was site visit in September.
- Adam Bureau: Do you believe that in any way your recommendations will prevent any group including the Cobourg Dragon Boat and Canoe Club from operating successfully? Response: That’s a peculiar question; we are only focusing on safety. We are asking that the Town put in place Permits and leasing agreements, knowledge of events and when they are going to happen – all these things are programmable so No.
- Suzanne Séguin: Why mention expansion of the Marina if it had no effect on the report? Response: As part of document review, we were shown the potential of the expansion of the marina but it did not affect recommendations.
- Emily Chorley: Was a comprehensive audit of the Marina (as well as the West Harbour) also conducted? Response: Primarily the West Harbour.
- Emily Chorley: How was scope defined? Response: It was defined for us.
- Nicole Beatty: The document is missing the findings that led to the recommendations. Response: An executive summary was provided and the next steps would be for staff to produce an action plan to implement the changes.
Jeremy is with the Cobourg Dragon Boat and Canoe Club (CDBCC) (photo above right)
- The audit was described as independent but was not – it was directed by Town staff and the Lifesaving audit team shared documents with the Town intended only for the Audit committee.
- The Audit team told CDBCC that their mandate was to determine how the expansion of docks into the West Harbour Area would impact the safety of CDBCC programs.
- The Dragon Boat National organization’s Code of safety was ignored (Download here)
- The Town admitted in 2015 that the harbour is federally regulated yet the Town plans to regulate it.
- Camp Regulations 503/17 are quoted for camps yet do not apply since they are intended for overnight camps.
- The requirement to schedule when user groups can use the harbour would put the CDBCC day camps out of operation – yet Dean Hustwick said on July 3, 2018 that there is more than enough room for all programs and boats even with Marina expansion. There has never been safety concerns with our programs in the harbour in the 20 years we have operated.
- The requirement for a motorized safety boat contradicts Ophea requirements.
- Is it a change in Policy that a Special events application is needed for the Dragon Boat Festival United Way fundraiser?
- Re the requirement to designate a camp user group indoor and outdoor space: For an emergency such as a thunderstorm, CAO Peacock said on July 22, 2019 that of course the Marina building could be used. It would not be used for programs.
In response to a question from Emily Chorley, Jeremy confirmed that scheduling would put the CDBCC out of business.
Jeremy asked that the report be referred to the Parks and Recreation Parks and Advisory committee.
- Concerned about accusations against staff who are professional sworn civil servants … who serve the public and not special interest groups
- Staff requested this audit as part of professional due diligence
- There were allegations that confidential documents were shared but these are public documents
- “As for the suggestion that we manipulated the outcome of this audit, that’s absolutely ridiculous”
- The use of the harbour can be enhanced but that’s through proper management and scheduling – “There’s no conspiracy here”. Not trying to reduce usage or eliminate users. Compare this to scheduling use of the Concert hall which would not drive the VOS out of business.
- Re Marina Expansion: Auditors were not asked to consider Marina expansion (it was absolutely not on the Agenda) but some documents that happened to mention this were provided. “It is absolutely not correct that staff are continuing to work on Marina Expansion”.
- The reason for the focus on the West harbour and not the Marina was because “we have total care and control over the Marina”. We have very little control or authority over the use of the West Harbour even though it is a heavily used Municipal property. This is probably the only municipal property that we don’t have care and control over.
- There was concern that investigations in the summer of the operations of the CDBCC were to undermine the club. “That was absolutely not the case”.
- There have been suggestions that the Town does not own the harbour “That’s not true”. Dean said that the Town owns the harbour and it can be regulated by Municipal bylaw. Because of this ownership, the Town has an obligation to operate it safely – the same as the CCC, Parks and Beach.
- The Town has never given permission for Camp programs to use the Marina Building. The space available would be corridors and bathrooms and is not an appropriate place to hold Camp programs. Other programs booked alternative space on the day of the thunderstorm being quoted.
Emily Chorley (with an amendment by Brian Darling) then moved that the Aquatic Safety Audit report be referred to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee to get feedback from all user groups. By the first COW meeting in March 2020, staff will provide a report to Council inclusive of the feedback from all user groups. The motion carried.
Hopefully all concerns can be resolved and all West Harbour user groups will be able to continue using it.