01/22/2013 08:34 EST | Updated 03/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Parks Canada dials back proposed canal fee hikes

Parks Canada appears to be backpedalling on proposed fee hikes for boaters using the Rideau Canal as the fees will not increase as much as first planned.

Liberal Senator Jim Munson lashed out at the federal government on Jan. 18 for "gouging" pleasure boaters who planned to sail the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

Last week, proposed fee structures for 2014 — then available on the Parks Canada website — made a 45-lock trip, depending on the size of your boat, soar from $115 to $450. A season's pass jumped from several hundred dollars to upwards of $1,000 and all in, the new fees amounted to a 300 per cent increase.

Currently, it costs boat owners 45 cents per foot to pass through a lock, so a 20-foot boat would pay $9 at each juncture.

Under the newly revised fees announced Monday, that same 20-foot boat would pay 60 cents per foot for half the locks and 90 cents per foot for the more complicated locks. That would increase the price of a trip from Kingston to Ottawa by about $150.

Boaters will also still be able to buy weekly and seasonal passes for the canal locks, based on the length of their vessel. The cost of a season pass will be $15 per foot, so that same 20-foot boat could get a season pass for $200.

Parks Canada was hoping to recover more of the costs of operating the canal from users, but many boaters were complaining they would stop using the canal altogether if these increases went through.

Under these more modest increases, users will only be paying for about 18 per cent of the total cost and the taxpayer will foot the bill for the other 82 per cent.