Closed fuel pumps hurt tourism, Nipigon mayor says

A decision to lock down fuel pumps at some north shore marinas is not sitting well with advocates for the tourism industry who say there was not enough notice.

Technical Standards and Safety Authority needs to improve communications, critics note

Nipigon, Ont. marina (Supplied)

A decision to lock down fuel pumps at some north shore marinas isn't sitting well with advocates for the tourism industry who say they haven’t been given enough notice.

Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey says Technical Standards and Safety Authority inspectors closed gas pumps at his town's marina last month.

He said the authority started enforcing certain regulations that aren't well-known — and did so at the start of tourist season.

The authority’s timing was poor, Harvey noted.

"The word, unfortunately, gets out and you have people … on the south shore saying 'there's no fuel up there,'" he said.

"We've been able to provide it to people who need it, but people … saying 'well, I'm afraid if I go up to Canada, we sail all the way up there, we could be stuck."

Harvey said he wants to know why no one raised concerns when the pumps were re-installed along with new docks at the Marina last year.

"We just had the brand new docks put in, we had the pumps — all our gas pumps and everything — put back in, so this is all brand new, and these regulations apparently were in effect," he said, adding that, if the safety agency had given notice, the pumps could have quickly been brought in line with regulations.

'Poor communication'

The authority told CBC News it has indeed shut down pumps at the Nipigon, Red Rock, and Rossport marinas, however spokesperson Wilson Lee said the agency isn’t inspecting fuel pumps any more stringently than it always has.

"Obviously, we are sensitive to the impact on the community, but our responsibilities are to enforce safety regulations," he said.

But shutting down the pumps "is not the message you want to be sending out to the tourists who are considering coming to our area," Harvey said.

"We need to be, if anything, working with all the agencies with all the different groups within the government, working together to send out a message that we are open for business."

In Kenora, the executive director of the Sunset Country Travel Association said inspections could also affect hundreds of lodge owners in the northwest, as many have fuel pumps for their guests.

"There was very poor communication by the TSSA about this in my opinion," Gerry Cariou said. "There should be an education phase, there should be a compliance phase where the businesses are given the opportunity without having their pumps locked down, ‘cause we're not suffering from massive fuel spills right now."

He said he doesn't know of any specific lodge's pump that has been shut down, but he noted some owners are worried.

Cariou added he believes there is an enforcement blitz going on, although the authority denies this is the case.

"We can't, frankly, compromise on public safety just because there might be an economic impact," Lee said.

"If that were the case, we'd effectively never really be enforcing our safety requirements."   

Harvey said he expects the Nipigon fuel pumps won't be back online for a couple more weeks.