Reopening boat lease fraught with danger

From the Niagara Falls Review:

Premier Dalton McGuinty sailed into uncharted waters, forcing the Niagara Parks Commission to put its lease with the Maid of the Mist out to tender. If he doesn’t navigate carefully, he risks steering the Niagara Falls tourism industry right onto the rocks.

Jaws dropped in Niagara Falls last Wednesday when Ontario Tourism Minister Monique Smith announced she was “requesting” the Niagara Parks Commission hold a competitive bidding process to find a company to run boat tours in the Niagara gorge. Right now, the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co., a private company, pays rent to the parks commission for the use of government land to run the Canadian part of its business.

Some expected the government to rubber-stamp the recommendation from its own commissioners to renew its lease with the Maid of the Mist.

Open government is a noble goal. But when managing a public trust, it can’t always be about the lowest bid. Why not issue tenders for everything – hospitals, schools, museums, the military, and the U. S. space program?

On routine business, issuing tenders is a fair way for governments to do business. As long as all the companies are equally qualified to provide the service, it makes sense to take the low bid.

But running boat tours in the Niagara River is not like buying a new fleet of pickup trucks.

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