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City Unsure Why Transport Canada Nixed MS Norgoma Coming To Owen Sound

The MS Norgoma will not be coming to Owen Sound, and the City isn’t sure why Transport Canada nixed the idea. “For Transport Canada to throw up an obstacle like this without any real explanation, is just a little bit unfair,” says Councillor Richard Thomas. Council received a letter from Transport Canada (which owns the harbour) that was in this week’s agenda saying it regrets that it cannot support the proposal by Tobermory Real Estate Investors Inc. to move the ship to Owen Sound.

Patricia Moniz, Manager, Airports and Ports Real Property for Transport Canada says in the letter, “It is not compatible with our land management considerations at the port.” She writes, “These considerations include carrying out due diligence and other work in support of a future divestiture of the port pursuant to our Port Asset Transfer Program. While we support commercial, heritage, and other activities conducive to a working port, we consider that the permanent emplacement of a large historic vessel within the inner harbour does not align with our plan for the port at this time.”

Councillor Richard Thomas says, “I find it quite surprising because if they have a plan, they must be keeping it secret, because certainly, we don’t know anything about it at the City.” A main proponent of moving the ship is Mike Goman, who owns the Sweet Shop and the The Cafe in front of it in Tobermory. He had initially tried to bring it to Tobermory as an attraction, but the in-demand harbour at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula couldn’t accommodate it.

After that, Goman made an effort to bring the ship from Sault Ste. Marie to permanently dock it in the Owen Sound harbour. Councillor Richard Thomas adds, “Opportunities like this don’t come every day and certainly in terms of Norgoma, the clock is ticking because the City of Sault Ste.

Marie wants to divest itself of Norgoma. Mr. Goman would like to help with that, but if something doesn’t happen soon, it’s going to a scrap yard.”

Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy said this week, the issue of divestiture has been at a bit of a standstill, as far as the City can tell for a couple of years now, “They probably can’t divest without digging up the bottom and Saugeen Ojibway Nation does not want that because it is going to contaminate fish. We, frankly are matching that, we don’t want that because we don’t want contaminated water coming into our drinking water system and poisoning our citizens,” says Boddy. Meanwhile, Richard Thomas says, it’s his understanding City Staff will follow up with further communication with Transport Canada to find out what their plan is for the harbour, “It it’s enough of a plan to deny what seems at the face to be a really great prospect for the inner harbour, I’d really be interested in knowing what their plan is.”

Goman made a presentation to the City’s Community Development and Tourism Committee a couple of weeks ago where Thomas says, some visions of the ship’s use included turning it into a museum with a cafe, a floating restaurant or brew pub or a boutique hotel. Thomas says the committee thought it was an interesting idea, and was open to the possibility of exploring it. The Norgoma was built in the 1950s and used to belong to the Owen Sound Transportation Company where it shipped furniture from Owen Sound to Sault Ste.

Marie. After that, it was a ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island. It had been purchased by Sault Ste.

Marie in 1975 and used as a museum. It was moved to its current dock and put up for sale in 2019. Thomas is still optimistic something can be done to save the Norgoma from scrap, “In terms of Mr.

Goman, I haven’t been in touch with him, but hopefully he’s got a little bit of time to play with as we sort of continue to try and work this through.”

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