The water is what attracts people to this province, and it’s what’s in the veins of Newfoundlanders, says Mark Wilson of St. John’s. Removing access to the water, he says, is a step in the wrong direction.
Wilson, a musician, organic farmer and past
St. John’s mayoral candidate, has organized a Take Back the Harbour march for Monday afternoon in protest of the proposed fence for the St. John’s waterfront.
“I think what’s absolutely critical is that people are able to show the powers that be, the port authority and the City of St. John’s, what the public wants, really,” Wilson says. “I think people want access to the harbour, and I think that’s clear from what we’re getting in the media, but without physically showing up at the port authority building and at a council meeting, what kind of democracy do people expect to receive?”
St. John’s Port Authority CEO Sean Hanrahan has said the authority must either abide by security standards or shut down the port of St. John’s, meaning a loss of a quarter of a billion dollars and close to 3,000 jobs.
“Since Sept. 11, 2001, there’s been a more restricted security regime in place, one we have always tried to maintain, but at the same time afford as much public access to the harbour as we can. That’s not always possible, and we’ve gone as far as we can with that,” he said Thursday.
City representatives have given their unanimous support for the project, which will cost a total of about $900,000. The fence will be erected on the waterfront from the parking garage to the Royal Trust building. The open-access area will be from The Keg restaurant to the edge of Atlantic Place.
“It seems like access to the water is being removed more and more and more,” Wilson says. “What’s the point of that? What kinds of security threats are here? Is it a security threat or is it a don’t-bother-our-business threat?”
Wilson says there’s likely a compromise that can be reached, which might include removable fencing.
“We get into these situations where the city has made a decision and they don’t want to talk about it anymore, and the harbour authority has made a decision and they don’t want to talk about it anymore. From the very beginning, if we have the dialogue, then we can move forward in a way that the majority is going to be happy with, but we don’t have that.”
The march will begin at the St. John’s Port Authority Building, 1 Water St., at 3:30 p.m. Participants will then walk along the harbour to City Hall for a protest, before attending the city council meeting at 4:30 p.m.